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Plans forming for new Snowtown USA

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Organizers are finalizing their plans to bring back the new version of Snowtown USA, the festival that pays homage to the north country’s wintry weather.

They are meeting this morning to put together final plans for the festival that kicks off on New Year’s Eve and runs through the following weekend.

“It’s coming together,” said Erin E. Gardner, the city’s Parks and Recreation superintendent.

They should have details of the individual events after meeting this morning, she said.

Plans call for a hockey tournament to raise money for the Wounded Warrior program, a winter softball tournament, snowman building, outdoor skating, a Watertown Privateers hockey game and other activities.

On Thursday, Jan. 2, the festival will feature a Thompson Park Day with horse-drawn sleds, dogsled rides, snowshoe tours and a snowboard-kit presentation. The New York State Zoo at Thompson Park also will hold special events that day.

The group of volunteers, city Parks and Recreation Department officials, the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce and others are putting together the festival.

Organizers are making a push to find businesses to sponsor some of the events. Chamber of Commerce officials are working on that portion of the festival, Parks Department program manager Celia E. Cook said.

During its heyday, the 10-day festival that let residents thumb their noses at Old Man Winter featured snow sculpture competitions, hockey tournaments, an open skating rink at the Park Circle and other events.

The idea was born of a Facebook comment last summer by resident Kristy Perez, 33, who asked whether others remembered Snowtown USA and said how great it would be if youths growing up in Watertown now could experience the festival. Soon Mrs. Perez, a mother of four, and friend Maura M. Dawley had about 50 people commenting that it would be great to bring it back.

“CBS Evening News” anchor Walter Cronkite actually coined the phrase “Snowtown USA,” when reporting how the blizzard of 1977 dumped some 220 inches of snow on Watertown.

A few years later, organizers used it for the name of the new festival.

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