Iola event set for Feb. 2-4
By Emily Conroy
The 62nd Iola Winter Carnival is set for Friday through Sunday, Feb. 2-4, and volunteers hope to breathe new life into the event.
Megan Melum is in her second year as volunteer. She looks forward to expanding the carnival, as well as bringing back some traditions, such as the lutefisk supper.
“I grew up here in Iola and I have many fond memories of the Winter Carnival,” Melum said. “The nostalgia of it all pulled me in last year and I just really wanted to see the event succeed and grow.”
Melum owns her own marketing and consulting firm and is passionate about organizing large events such as the winter carnival.
“Being able to offer an experience to people, and giving them a chance to create new lasting core memories I just find immensely rewarding,” she said.
All proceeds for the event will benefit the Iola Winter Sports Club and the American Legion Sheveland-Taylor Post 14.
The Iola Winter Sports Club will use the funds to help pay for their youth ski programs. Some of the money will also go into an account so the Iola Winter Carnival can have funds to build on in the future.
The American Legion will use the funds raised to re-build their cabin at Camp Tomahawk, where veterans and active military can go when they need a reprieve or are in crisis.
David Leder, a volunteer with the American Legion, said the camp started as a place for veterans with service-related disabilities. It has h expanded to include all veterans or active military.
“With the rise of [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] among veterans the eligibility has been open to all veterans. It has been and can be a very healing place,” Leder said.
Chili Walk Cookoff
New this year is the Chili Walk Cookoff. This will take place Feb. 3 from 12 pm to 4 pm at the following businesses: Iola Corner Bar, The Mill, Thirsty Perch, Crystal Café and the American Legion will be featuring their chili at Mark McCoy’s Flat Tracker Tap.
The Chili Walk Cookoff is free, but participants must obtain a stamp from every business for their ballot to be counted.
Ice sculpting will be returning to the event at Chet Krause Legacy Park where Melum Masonry will provide complimentary hot chocolate and cookies.
Teams need to be signed up by Jan. 20 in order for organizers to reserve the right amount of ice for teams to sculpt.
The children’s fishing contest started over 15 years ago and volunteer Tracey Ambacher took over the organizing the event in 2019. He said the contest started as a thank you from the Iola Lake District to the village of Iola.
Ambacher believes that the ice will be thick enough to walk on thanks to the frigid temperatures coming over the next couple of weeks. However, he said he will still keep an eye on it.
No matter what the ice conditions bring by the time of the event, Ambacher will still be moving forward with food, raffles and prizes. Food will include hotdogs from Nueske Meats, chili from Too Dars Diner in Iola, fried cheese curds from Monogram Foods, and hot chocolate.
Children’s Fishing Contest
Registration for the Children’s Fishing Contest will be at 9:30 a.m.. The contest will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Prizes will go to the top three fish from each category. Categories include bluegill and sunfish, perch, crappie, bass and northern.
All first-place fish entries will be put in a drawing for a free taxidermy of a panfish up to 14 inches from Mayes Taxidermy out of Stevens Point, courtesy of Recon Boats. There will be more door prizes consisting of fishing equipment and area gift certificates.
There will also be a bucket raffle for an auger and a three-man pop-up shanty, as well as a 50/50 raffle during the fishing contest. The event will be held at Lake Iola.
The Iola Winter Sports Club, E398 County Trunk MM, will also be busy all weekend, starting Friday with a fat bike race, a Saturday snowshoe candlelit hike, and the Central Ski Jumping Championships starting at noon Sunday.
The Iola Winter Carnival will also be selling raffle tickets at area businesses for cash prizes and gift certificates.
Melum stressed the need for more volunteers in the future in order to expand the event and bring back previous traditions, like the lutefisk dinner.
For more information on how to volunteer, reach out to the Iola Chamber of Commerce or find Iola Winter Carnival on Facebook.