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Derry Frost Festival
Skates into 20th Year

By Tom Long / Fiddlehead Contributing Editor

When poet laureate Robert Frost wrote “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” he could not have imagined the three-day Frost Festival in his hometown of Derry.

Ice sculptures, snowmobile rides, pond hockey and a bonfire are just a few of the events at the annual three-day winter festival that will be held this year from Feb. 8-10.

“I love seeing all the kids have fun at winter activities. To watch them get out of the house with their families and try something that they wouldn’t normally try, snowmobiling, ice skating and so forth. And it’s absolutely free,” Linda Benson, chairperson of the 20th annual festival, said recently.

Photographs in the Derry History Museum show that the town has held a winter festival as early as 1924. Back in the day, there was also a beauty pageant associated with the event.

About 20 years ago the winter celebration was reborn, this time as the Frost Festival. Benson has been involved with the event for about 15 years. She said it is planned by a core group of seven or eight volunteers, who begin organizing for the next year the day after the event.

The festival itself relies on about 60 or 70 volunteers including Boy Scouts, employees of the town recreation department, local businesses and a snowmobile club.

Everything depends on the weather. There have been years the event has to been called off due to lack of snow, and even too much snow.

“We pray for snow,” Benson said, “but not too much. Four years ago, the weather was just perfect for all of the activities. Some years there was no snow, and we just had indoor activities.”

This year’s festival begins on Friday with a screening of “Big,” the Tom Hanks movie about a boy who wants to grow up before his time, at the Derry Opera House where ice sculptures inspired by the movie will be on display.

The Frost Ball will return after a hiatus with dancing to music provided by a disc jockey from Get Down Tonight Entertainment.

When she spoke, Benson said the schedule had yet to be finalized but would be similar to previous years when there was open skating and hockey at Gallien’s Town Beach at Beaver Lake, snowmobile rides and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Hoodkroft Country Club, sledding and art and crafts demonstrations and food booths at Alexander-Carr Park.

This year’s schedule will be posted when it is available on the organization’s Facebook page: Frost Festival, Derry NH.