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  • Children of Eden written by Joey Graceffa
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City hosted annual Winterfest celebration this weekend

Before Cla-Zel became a bustling night club filled with sweaty, drunken bar patrons Friday night, it hosted a philanthropic event to kick off the weekend-long Winterfest.

Entertaining roughly 200 people, the Fire & Ice American Red Cross Fundraiser sought to raise $30,000 for natural disaster victims in Wood County. Most proceeds will benefit victims of fire-related disasters.

Money was raised throughout the night from entry tickets, raffles, auctions and sponsors, said Chris Diefenthaler, director of the American Red Cross of Wood County.

The fundraiser is a good way to start Winterfest because of its welcoming and fun environment, Diefenthaler said.

“It’s a causal night out on the town,” she said. “It’s relaxing, you can enjoy beverages and food and have a good time.”

Auctioned-off items included wine and jewelry, and the fundraiser included entertainment by The Bourbon Street Band and a member of the University Juggling Club.

Throughout the weekend, the city and University hosted a variety of activities and events for the community to participate in, including corn hole and dodgeball tournaments, ice skating, concerts and contests.

The city is fortunate to have the community work together and collaborate for a great cause, said Mayor Richard Edwards, who attended events throughout the week.

Winterfest started in 2008 as a celebration of winter sports and Olympic champion and native Scott Hamilton’s achievements.

The festival continued to expand throughout the next five years, attempting to add new events and entice students and community members to come out of the house during February.

“It’s a chance for some excitement in BG in February when everyone is cooped up and tired of winter,” Diefenthaler said.

Winterfest’s family-friendly activities have gained traction with some students.

Junior Rodney Lewis, who volunteered time for his fraternity to stand guard at some of the ice carvings downtown on Saturday afternoon, said the festival events drew interest from the student community.

“It definitely helps; a lot of people are walking around downtown for February,” Lewis said.

Corn hole and ice skating are some events that would attract students to come out, he said, providing an alternative to most weekend activities.

“It’s definitely different from the bars,” Lewis said.

Overall, Barbara Ruland, director of Downtown Bowling Green, said the festival was well attended.

“Every year it seems like there’s more and more activities and more fun things to do,” Ruland said. “It splits attentions, but it gets [community members] to come out and support it.”

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