Freeze Fest event draws many despite arctic temps Tiki torch trail, sky lanterns, swishing and smores


Last Friday, the Tomah Rotary Club, along with Tomah Parks and Recreation, held a Freeze Fest event, called “Swish Across the Lake.” The event, which involved snowshoeing and cross-country skiing along a frosty, frozen Lake Tomah, was held at Winnebago Park, and ran from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.. With the temperatures dipping to a frigid below-zero marking on the thermostat, the tiki torches that lit the snowy pathway, while adding a flaming-warm ambience to the trail, did little to coerce a mercury rising. In addition to the footed travel, sky lanterns were available, for a $5 donation.

There is a lodge located at Winnebago Park, that comes complete with a giant fireplace and quite a few long tables. Inside the lodge, visitors and participants could get hot coco and the raw materials needed to create smores. When attendees first opened the doors to walk in, they were looking at large bins, with assortments of snowshoes and cross-country skis, by the dozens, available to choose from. With a Freeze Fest button, all the festivities cost anyone, was their time.

Hunter and Family

Hunter Willett (7) was there with his parents, Cameron Willett and Samantha Gross, along with sister, Isis Willett (11) and brother, Darrian Gross. The family gathered at the crunchy-snowed trailhead, ready to fully embrace the winter activities. Previous to living in the chilly climes of Wisconsin, the Willett/Gross family had lived in Tucson, Arizona. “We have been here for a year and a half,” stated Samantha Gross. “We are trying to fully experience the winter weather and try to enjoy it.” During the Herald interview, they were standing around the crackling campfire, provided by the Tomah Parks and Rec Department. Hunter Willett would be spotted in the same location, in the latter minutes of the event, roasting a marshmallow, with his father Cameron.


Carl Kisely, President of the Tomah Rotary, was inside the lodge, handing out hot coco and smores kits, complete with long utensils, for roasting the marshmallows. Kisely talked about a few of the projects the Rotary was currently working on, within the community. “We are putting in a music park and a kids park, in the coming year or so,” Kisely explained. “It will be handicapable and have giant outdoor instruments that look like flower petals and bees. You can walk right up to them and create whatever music you like. When it is all said and done, we will have over $100,000 put into the park.” Kisely went on to say that there will be a tots’ park, right next to it.

Jack Hammer forever

Rosalee Trautsch (4) was in attendance, with her father, Kyle Trautsch. Rosalee was on a mission to get her sky lantern sailing through the frozen night sky. She was certain that it would land at her grandmother’s home, in Prairie du Chien. With the temperatures plummeted in full, sky lanterns were having difficulty getting their initial lift off. The Tomah Parks and Recreation crew worked safely and diligently, to make sure the lantern liftoff was successful. Dressed in their heavy, yellow jackets, complete with silver-reflective strips that could be seen from space, they would employ the use of a blow torch, to start the fires needed to promote a healthy launch. Samantha jumped up and down, like a mini jackhammer, as her lantern slowly eked its way along the ground, bouncing a few times off the frozen tundra and then finally floating up into the darkness of the great beyond. “I have been waiting for this moment forever,” said Rosalee. Her father laughed, telling the Herald that she had only heard about the event days earlier.

Mosely by the fire

Back inside the lodge, a young Ana Mosely was warming up by the fire, while Great Grandmother, Aleda Mosely, stood nearby. “They are used to playing outside, so this weather does not bother them at all,” said Mosely. Ana’s sisters would soon set down their hot coco and join Ana by the fire, possibly pressured by Great Grandma and the Herald taking photos.  

That seemed to be a common theme amongst the children, that they would much rather be outside in the snow, than inside a building. The trek inside the lodge, for them, was strictly based on hopes of truth underlying the rumors of hot coco, marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate. Once these delicious treats were in hand, or in belly, it was straight out the doors and into the wonderland of snow and adventure. The young explorers scoffed at the biting temperature, boldly implying, “You got nothing.” When Hunter Willet was pressed on why he wanted to stay outside, he simply stated, “There is more to do outside than inside, like sliding around and stuff.”

Benny Mailman, Monroe County Herald, Tomah Rotary, Freeze Fest, Hunter Willets, Arizona, sky lantern, snowshoe, cross-country skiing, frozen arctic temps


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