BY CADY KUZMICH
CLIFTON PARK — “There’s no winter, just a fest!” laughed Eric Holzhauer of Riverview Orchards during Clifton Park’s 25th annual Winterfest Saturday.
Riverview Orchards usually offers prime sledding opportunities and horse-drawn sleigh rides for the community’s annual festival, but had to alter plans a bit this year in the wake of unusually mild weather.
Holzhauer recalled having about two feet of snow last year. “It’s hard to have sleigh rides or go sledding without snow.” He estimated business was down by about 50 percent this year at the farm store.
Instead of sleigh rides, Riverview Orchards teamed up with Washington County Draft Animals Association to provide horse-drawn carriage rides. Copper and Duke, both 9-year-old Suffolk Punch draft horses, pulled their charges around a bumpy, mud-strewn field. A red-tail hawk was seen sitting nearby the carriage trail.
Three different types of soup, sandwiches, cider donuts and homemade apple pie served with a slice of cheese were on the menu at Riverview Orchards.
Back in town, a Shenendehowa fourth-grader named Max was at the Clifton Center Mall with his Cub Scout Pack, sharing a few of their latest projects with the community. Max, member of Shen Cub Scouts Den 5, said his favorite badge is the one he earned for engineering. He described the day his dad showed the pack how to make book shelves out of cardboard, and how the pack tested designs to make the most aerodynamic paper airplanes.
Max also explained how he and his other pack members designed derby cars out of blocks of wood. “If you want to make a really good one, it takes maybe three months,” he said. He and his fellow cubs sent their wooden cars careening, again and again, down a ramp in the mall, which hosted other informational tables with representatives from CAPTAIN’s Youth and Family Services, the Clifton Park–Halfmoon Public Library, the YMCA and more.
Clifton Park Community Chorus took the stage at the mall at 11 a.m. while young Clifton Park Idol contestants got ready for their debuts.
The contest was divided into two rounds, kids 6 through 12 and teens 13 though 17.
Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett walked on stage to begin the competition saying, “Don’t make me be like Jeb Bush and beg you to clap!”
Little children walked around the outskirts of the crowd with balloons tied to their wrists on long purple strings.
Katie Lee performed “Part of Your World,” from The Little Mermaid soundtrack, taking home the Idol title in the younger category. With long red hair and a robin’s egg hued skirt, 12-year-old Lee not only looked the part — she sounded it, too. Lee said she prepared by taking voice lessons and performing in front of family and friends and said she wasn’t too nervous.
“I have a lot of friends here,” she said. “And it’s nice to watch other people and see how they do. We have a really nice community here.”
One of the afternoon’s judges, lead singer of the New York Players, Georgia Jones, reminded Lee that “New York City is only a few hours away!”
Christian Blood, bedecked in a black vest and a trumpet in tow, surprised his mother by ditching the brass to serenade her with Il Divo’s “Mama.”
“He told me he was going to play the trumpet,” she said, still surprised.
Molly McCarthy, 16, won the older age category.
The Zucchini Brothers, a band specializing in kid’s tunes, took the stage later in the afternoon, traveling to Clifton Park from Zucchiniland via time machine, according to Steve Zucchini. The band has been playing the festival for 10 years, he said.
The Hilton Garden Inn hosted a “Taste of Clifton Park” soup contest in its ballroom, and long before the mall opened, community members got together for an hour-long walk at the Dwaas Kill Nature Preserve early Saturday morning.
Reach Gazette reporter Cady Kuzmich at 269-7239 or email@example.com.