With toilets on runners and men in ice, the Pierce Winter Festival is one-of-a-kind

Linda Smith rides a toilet mounted on runners in the 2011 races.
Linda Smith rides a toilet mounted on runners in the 2011 races.

Toilets, shopping carts and an old-fashioned doctor’s table are some of the vehicles to tear down the snow-covered hills at the Pierce Winter Festival.

“Essentially it’s anything mounted on skis,” organizer Colleen Nelson says about the makeshift sled event called the Bar Stool Races. “As long as it can be tugged up the hill with a snowmobile.”

Some contraptions are for speed, others for fun. Some competitors return each year with the same equipment.

“They come down in several heats and it is quite hilarious,” says Nelson, who with her husband, Harv, owns The Outback, a cabin rental business where the race will be held. A $10 entry fee gains admittance to the race, which starts at 2 p.m. The top prize is a trophy created by Clarkston metal artist John Bergen.

The Bar Stool Races are just one of the creative ways winter is celebrated at the festival. The Ice Man Relay is another. Ice is hacked out of the town pond in preparation for the relay run by teams of three. The first leg is a half-mile run in snowshoes. The second is a half-mile run with a sled. The third runner finishes by diving into the icy pond. Their head must be submerged.

“Hopefully they’re fairly young,” Nelson says about the jumper, who will find a fire blazing nearby and a tent to change in.

The festival took place for several years before its previous organizers moved. The Nelsons helped spearhead its return four years ago.

A man jumps into the pond at the end of the Ice Man Race in Pierce.
A man jumps into the pond at the end of the Ice Man Race in Pierce.

“It’s to just bring some excitement to the long winter that we generally have, and to bring people to town and to celebrate Pierce,” Nelson says.

Other attractions include free horse-drawn wagon and tractor hay rides, kids games and live music. People can sign up for a 50-mile snowmobile fun run at the Pierce Community Center where breakfast and dinner will be available for purchase. New this year is a fireworks show topping off Saturday’s events.

The Ice Man Relay is 10 a.m. to noon at Courtyard Park Pavilion. People can register by calling Greg Gerot at (208) 464-1057. More information is available by calling the Pierce Winter Festival Committee at (208) 464-2171. Pierce Winter Festival Events take place at the Pierce Community Center unless otherwise listed

Friday, Feb. 1 8 p.m.-midnight, live music by W. Alan Hall at the Vug

Saturday, Feb. 2 7-11 a.m., breakfast 8 a.m.-noon, snowmobile fun run 9 a.m.-noon, horse-drawn wagon rides 10 a.m.-noon, Ice Man Relay, Courtyard Park Pavilion 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Passport to Pierce Businesses, begins at the Blue Moose 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., ATV Treasure Hunt, register before 10:30 at the ATV Club House 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., kids games Noon-2:30 p.m., tractor hay rides 2:30-4 p.m., Bar Stool Races, The Outback 4 p.m., snow sculpture judging, Main Street 5:30-7:30 p.m., potato bar and chili feed 6-7 p.m., music by Thorn Creek Express 7 p.m., prize drawing and festival winners announced 7:30 p.m., fireworks, Softball Field 8 p.m.-midnight, music by Rough Kutz, Timber Inn

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