By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY — Wet, heavy snow put the "winter" in the Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival this weekend as locals and visitors took part in dozens of free outdoor activities on downtown Front Street.
Ron Luce stood at the foot of a sledding hill east of the State Theatre on Saturday morning and snapped pictures of his children, Lauren, 10, and Holden, 5, as they slid down the slope in tubes. The family from downstate Horton came to Traverse City at a friend's invitation and planned to participate in as many events as they could during the weekend.
"We've only done this so far, but I bet the ice skating and the Ferris wheel are going to be fun, too," said Lauren, who sported a hat with penguin eyes and a beak.
At the nearby ice skating rink, Dan Pomeroy of Ann Arbor held his niece's hands and guided her backwards on the synthetic ice.
"It feels like standing on those whiteboards at schools," he said, before taking a tumble with niece Kylee Eising, 2.
Pomeroy grew up in the area and said he returned this weekend for the festival, which includes comedy shows and films and a Soup'R Bowl lunch, among other events. He planned to take in a live show starring comedian Robert Wuhl Saturday night,
Inside a warming tent, festival volunteers handed out skates from about 70 or 80 racked pairs, while another sharpened blades as fast as the skates were turned in.
"They didn't get sharpened at all last night. We were too busy," said volunteer John Donahue.
Scott Tuthill skated with sons Adam, 10, and Aaron, 8, before heading to the sports arena to watch the Monster Dog Pull.
"Can you believe this snow?" said Tuthill, who recently moved back to the area from Canton. "It's exactly what a winter festival should be."
As a crowd urged him on, long-haired miniature dachshund Scooby raced down a snow-covered track pulling a weighted sled. With a time of 8.9 seconds, he beat out defending champion Jack, a miniature pinscher owned by Chris Callahan, 10, of Traverse City.
"This is his first time," said Scooby's owner Norm Bowbeer, a Traverse City comedian who planned to perform at an open mic show at InsideOut Gallery Saturday night. "It's a great event."
Weimaraner Hank, of Kalamazoo, waited his turn to pull in a heavier weight class.
"This was a last-minute decision," said owner Ashley Baker, whose family arrived in Traverse City on Saturday at 2:30 a.m. "Once he got out here he kind of started hobbling like his feet are cold, so I'm not sure what to expect. He's a hyper dog, so once people start cheering, I think he'll get into it. My 4-year-old gave him a pep talk last night."
Nicole and Jason Hulet clad their standard poodle, Scholar Rootles, in an argyle sweater and played the "Rocky" theme song Saturday morning to encourage him.
"This is what he's running for," said Nicole Hulet, of Traverse City, holding up a stuffed cupcake toy. "We're really going to go for it."
The Monster Dog Pull is one of the most popular events at the winter festival, and attracted dozens of dogs of all shapes and sizes. This year's Grand Prize was a $300 package that included dog treats, toys and supplies, plus certificates good for a doggie "resort" stay, an identification microchip, and downtown shopping.
The winter comedy arts festival continues through today with more outdoor events and screenings of the movies "The Goonies," "The Princess Bride" and "Sleepwalk with Me."