Winterfest creates a “block party” atmosphere with Dumpster dive, long johns run and bonfires in downtown Grand Haven

GRAND HAVEN, MI — At 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 23, the Harborfront parking lot in downtown Grand Haven was free of snow.  Seven dump trucks later, eight inches of snow covered the area for a human sled race and family dog pull.

At the end of the night, the loaders returned to clear the snow for Winterfests third day of fun on Saturday, Jan. 24.

For the first time the Winterfest Bonfire Bash, including the Dumpster dive and long johns run, was introduced to downtown Grand Haven.

From 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. 12 bonfire pits were kept hot in the Harborfront parking lot where the events took place.

Free marshmallows provided by Winterfest were available to roast over the bonfires and to enjoy as a S’more or by itself. Hot dogs and hot chocolate were also available to purchase for a $1.

“It’s a really fun family event, its just really cute, the community is all out here, it’s bigger than what I thought it was going to be,” said Katy Morford, 25, of Columbus Ohio who attended the event with her husband, brother-in-law and his girlfriend.

Most came to see jumpers participate in the Dumpster dive. Hundreds crowded around the parking lot to get a good view.

Unlike most Dumpster dives, there was no sifting through garbage, instead the Dumpster was filled with 7,000 gallons of ice cold water.

To jump each participant was required to register.  Jumpers could print an application online and fill it out ahead of time or for anyone feeling spontaneous, registration forms were available at the event.  Their was a $20 coverage charge and similar to a Polar Bear Plunge, jumpers where encouraged to wear a costume.

All proceeds raised during the Dumpster dive went toward helping Tri-Cities Area Habitat for Humanity provide support to build homes in Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Ferrysburg for families in need.

Nine jumpers took part in the event. Olaf placed first in the costume competition and Peter Pan and Captain Hook placed as a team taking second and third.

“Last year it was harder with the rocky bank and it was slicker on the shore. The Dumpster made it a lot easier,” said Becky Burton, a third time jumper who appeared as Peter Pan this year.

“First I wanted to do it just to say that I did it, but now it’s become something that I look forward to every year because its fun to be wild and crazy and this year I decided to do it to raise money,” said Burton, who raised over $500.

Expect the Dumpster dive to be back again next year, according to April Lathrop, a resource coordinator for Habitat for Humanity, the Dumpster dive will now be apart of Winterfest as one of the main events.

Another first, the long johns run, was a short run along the sidewalks of Washington Avenue from the Bonfire Bash and back.  When the runners returned, people lined up to cheer them on at the finish line.

“It’s like a big block party, we’re all hanging out having a good time, we did the race and there were events all day; so ya it was a great time!” said Craig Morford, 28, of Columbus Ohio, who took part in the long johns run with his wife, brother, and friend.

A snowboard and ski competition will be the last Winterfest event to take place at Mulligan’s Hollow on Sunday, Jan. 24.

“The festival as a whole is just kind of an umbrella for getting the whole town together and doing something in the middle of winter,” said President of Winterfest Kevin Galbavi.


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