CLARION - When Barry Kuebler, 10, of St. Louis, Mo., returns to his classmates back home, he'll be one of the few among them that can say he's flown a kite on a frozen lake surface.
His sister, Clare Marie, 8, and brother Michael, 9, will be able to say the same thing to their friends.
Their mom, Molly Kuebler, will be able to tell her friends that she drove 425 miles to attend the annual Wright County Winterfest at Lake Cornelia Park and that she too, flew a kite on the frozen surface.
Clare Marie Kuebler, 8, of St. Louis, Mo., works on getting her kite in the air Saturday during the annual Wright County Winterfest at Lake Cornelia Park. The family makes an annual trip to the festival.
Olivia Flumerfelt, 7, of Eagle Grove, sends the ball towards the pin Saturday afternoon while trying her hand a bowling on the ice during the Wright County Winterfest at Lake Cornelia Park.
Jay Anderson, left, and his son Nate, of rural Jewell, drive Pat and Polly through Lake Cornelia Park Saturday afternoon during the annual Wright County Winterfest. Wagon and sleigh rides are among the many activities at the event.
Kuebler, who grew up in Belmond, makes an annual trip with the children. Besides visiting family and friends, they also attend the festival, now in its 18th year. Coming home to the festival gives the children a chance to participate in winter activities that simply don't exist at home.
"We have no frozen lakes," she said. "We maybe get one snowstorm a year."
The annual trip also brings back a flood of memories for Kuebler. Besides her own fond memories of growing up around the area of the lake, there are also family moments.
"The first time we brought Clare Marie, she was so bundled up she couldn't walk," she said.
The children's grandmother, Betty Houser, lives along the shore of the lake and enjoys the family tradition. Many years she's had family from Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Belmond and St. Louis visit and attend,
"They learned how to ice skate here," she said while Molly Kuebler was busy untangling two kite strings.
Gretta Bauman helped organize the event. She explained that offering many different activities helps show people that Lake Cornelia and the park can be enjoyed all year around. She's also proud of the hardiness required some years to endure the cold.
"We've never canceled the event," she said. "It's always the first weekend in February."
Enduring the weather is one thing. Chopping a hole in the ice, then taking turns rescuing each other from it might seem the height of insanity, but for members of the Wright County Search and Rescue Team, they were not only having fun but helping to educate the public about survival techniques, handing out booklets with life saving techniques and answering questions.
Wright County Conservation, which operates the park, added a quiet water marina several years ago to give access to the park from the lake. Frozen over, its smooth surface was being used for ice skating and, yes, bowling.
Using real pins and a red ball that almost matched her coat, Olivia Flumerfelt, 7, of Eagle Grove, was doing her best to avoid getting the dreaded seven 10 split. She did well considering the heft of the ball and that the ice skates on her feet were probably never intended to be worn bowling.
"It's hard," she said, referring not the skates, but instead, "The ice and slush."
One of the star attractions at the annual event is the chance to ride a wagon or sleigh through the woods behind a pair of horses. The longest line was waiting for a chance to ride in Marlene Brooks' vintage bobsled. The sled, pulled by Patty and Jackie, was once owned by her great-grandfather.
Lacking much of a suspension, some of the riders found out that the woods were in fact full of ruts.
"They figure out it don't ride like a car," Brooks said. "Pretty quickly."
Contact Hans Madsen at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org