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WinterFest Returns to Celebrate Holiday Season

A crowd of fans surround Hilby the Skinny German Juggle Boy as he performs in front of Tompkins Trust Company in downtown Trumansburg. Children seated in front of their parents cheer for his juggling tricks while their parents chuckle at his jokes.
“Oh no, look at that,” Hilby says as one of the flaming torches he was juggling falls from the air and lands on the ground. “I almost dropped one.”
Hilby is performing at Trumansburg’s 25th annual WinterFest, which takes place on the first Saturday of December. On Dec. 4, Hilby was joined by local organizations, small businesses, and Santa and Mrs. Claus to celebrate the holiday season with the residents of Trumansburg.
“It’s great for the kids,” said Rebecca Dobner, who recently moved to Trumansburg from New York City. “It gets everyone in the festive spirit.”
WinterFest Coordinator Cynthia Mannino was excited to see the festival come together after a hiatus last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding the festival received meant that all the activities were free of cost to the public.
“Merchants and individuals have donated—along with the municipalities—to make [WinterFest] totally accessible to everyone.” Mannino said. “I know it’s been a rough year for a lot of people, so it’s nice for everyone to come together.
“It’s something everyone in the community was excited to have come back,” said Katelin Olson, town supervisor of Ulysses. “It was a real missed opportunity last year because of COVID. … It’s just a day that feels really different, even though we live in a wonderful community. It’s really special.”
Keith Hannon, trustee on the Trumansburg Village Board of Trustees, said that sometimes annual events like WinterFest can feel repetitive, but missing that tradition for one year highlighted the village’s love for the festival.
“When you don’t have it one year and everyone has to stay in their house all winter, it really creates an appreciation for being able to get together, close down your streets, and really embrace all the various aspects of your town,” Hannon said.
santa stands on top of a firetruck and waves at the crowd
Santa and Mrs. Claus greet children from the back of a firetruck and pass them candy canes through a chute to the ground (Elizabeth Henning/Ithaca Week)
Trumansburg Mayor Rordan Hart emceed the event for the first time and was glad to see his community spending time together.
“I’m not a winter person myself, so seeing the joy in the community come together at this time of year is great,” Hart said. “The pandemic showed us a lot of things about losing the things we got used to and maybe that we take for granted a little bit. Seeing it back … is fantastic.”
Olson and several other community members appreciate that the village closes the street for the festival so their children can safely enjoy themselves and see their friends.
“I’m enjoying watching all the children, of course.” Olson said. “It’s nice for it to be during the day instead of the night because the night is kind of magical, but the daytime means your kids won’t get lost on you.”
a crowd of people
Crowds gather around Hilby the Skinny German Juggle Boy as he performs downtown in Trumansburg for Winterfest (Elizabeth Henning / Ithaca Week)
Trumansburg resident Janet Millspraugh was excited to be able to connect with neighbors and other members of the community
“It’s a good time to be out and see people we know, out and enjoying themselves,” Millspraugh said. “We also always come for the juggler. We like him; he’s funny.”
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