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Winter is back, and so is Tomah Rotary Club’s and Tomah Parks and Recreation’s Freeze Fest for its eighth year.

Robert Bollig of Tomah Rotary Club said Freeze Fest should be a good time and that there are plenty of events for everyone.

“It should be a good event,” he said. “I’m excited for the inflatables; we got some new ones this year to spice it up, and it should be a good time.”

Winners of the Freeze Fest Button Design contest were announced Monday.

Kailyn Falashi was the overall winner. Her design is featured on the Freeze Fest buttons, brochures, posters and t-shirts.

Emma Pickering won in the eight-and-under category, and Jeremy Kuhn won in the 13-17 age category.

Jeremy attends Queen of the Apostles school, while both Kailyn and Emma attend Lemonweir Elementary School.

Scott Hood, art teacher at Lemonweir Elementary School, was excited that two of his students won. This year he had all of his students participate in the competition.

“I wanted to give my students the opportunity to do something extraordinary, something unique and amazing, and they did,” he said.

The contest is a good way to encourage young artists, Hood said.

“As a child … I didn’t have those kinds of opportunities presented to me, and it actually fits in to what I was teaching the kids at the time about composition and design and putting forth their all into a design knowing where the design would go had they won,” he said. “It’s something that can really propel a young artist from thinking about it to really wanting it, and I wanted to give my students that opportunity.”

It’s important that Freeze Fest encourages community involvement, especially with children, Hood said.

“I think that Freeze Fest is a community event. I think that Rotary wanted it to be a community event when they decided to work with Parks and Rec to create it,” he said. “We need the community involvement from start to finish, both creating the event, participating in it, wrapping it up, everything involved with it. I think it’s important ... to have these kids involved. If nothing else, it gives their parents and the families of these kids, ‘Hey, this is going on in our town, this is something you should be involved in.’”

Lemonweir Elementary School principal Nicki Pope agrees. She said the school is always looking for projects in which students can participate.

“Winter is just a good time to be able to come up with some of those things,” Pope said. “So it’s an awesome thing for the community to be able to offer and for us to promote the schools.”

Kailyn thought it was fun to draw the button and was shocked that she won with her penguin on ice drawing.

“I just smiled so hard, and then I started laughing because I was happy and I was surprised,” she said.

The design was actually Kailyn’s second design, said her mother, Suzie Falaschi.

“When she brought the papers home from school, she had me go on the website so we could look at the previous years and she could show me what it was all about,” Falaschi said.

She said her daughter “wanted to do something different than what was done before.”

“She actually drew two of them,” Falaschi said.”the first one I believe looked more like a Christmas tree, and I was trying to tell her it’s not Christmas themed, so she wanted to choose something else, so she decided on the penguin, and I don’t know how she came up with the stuff in the background, but she was excited.”

Falaschi was also shocked that her daughter won. She thought someone with more experience drawing would win.

“I think it’s pretty amazing ... I’m real excited for her,” she said.

Angelica Chinnock was also excited for her daughter, Emma, as she didn’t know she was participating in the contest.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Chinnock said. “When I got a phone call that said she won and they did it for her art contest, I was ecstatic, because I didn’t even realize they were participating in the event at all. So I was excited.”

Jeremy’s mother Michelle Kuhn was proud of her son as he has never participated before.

“He’s a good drawer. He likes to draw, so it surprised me a little bit that he wanted to be in it. He had never done it before, and we were pleasantly surprised that he won his age group,” she said.

Kuhn said the win also brought her attention to Freeze Fest, which the family had never attended before.

“The snowshoe and the ski across the lake look really interesting, I hope they can do that, because I like to do that sort of thing, and the lantern thing that they do looks like a lot of fun, too,” she said. “I think it’s a great way to break up the long winter. It’s good to get people out and about and doing things, I think it’s a great thing.”

Chinnock also plans to attend Freeze Fest. She’s specifically looking forward to snowshoeing.

“This is the first time I ever actually heard about Freeze Fest in Tomah, so now we’re going to have to make it a family routine to go to Freeze Fest every single year,” she said. “Emma is excited to be able to participate, and I recently started snowshoeing with her, so I didn’t even know they were doing that, and I like to snowshoe, so I’m excited to show her.”

Freeze Fest was kicked off Monday with the medallion hunt, which runs through Friday night. Two clues will be given daily, the first in the morning and the second in the afternoon and will be available for viewing online at tomahrotaryclub.org at 5:30 p.m. The winner will receive $400 in Tomah Bucks and a Freeze Fest t-shirt.

From Jan. 29 to Feb. 4 Freeze Fest participants can attend a class at Alleycat Yoga with a Freeze Fest button, which costs $1 and can be found at city hall and the Tomah Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitor’s Bureau office. They will also be sold at Winnebago Park and Recreation Park on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday the festival will begin at 5 p.m. at Winnebago Park with the snowshoeing and cross country skiing across the lake as well as a sky lantern release beginning at 5:30 p.m. Lanterns cost $5 a piece.

Also on Friday, Freeze Fest participants are invited to roller skate at Flying Wheels Roller Rink from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. for half off if they have a Freeze Fest button.

On Saturday activities will begin at 2 p.m. at Recreation Park’s Gold Building with the Kid Zone, which includes inflatable obstacle courses, bounce houses and an inflatable basketball game.

Kid Zone is more than inflatables, Bollig said.

“Also at the event we have the Parenting Place doing some arts and crafts, we have face painting and one of our sponsors, Partnership Bank, is doing Kid ID,” he said. “They’re putting together packets for your children so in case something were to ever happen, you’ll have it all ready to provide to the police. That’s free of charge.”

The packets will include the child’s physical description and photo.

After Kid Zone at 5 p.m. is the presentation of Cars 3 on an inflatable screen followed by a skate exhibition by 7 Rivers Figure Skating Club at 6:30 p.m. with open skate to follow from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Bollig said Friday events might not happen this year due to the lack of snow on the lake, however Saturday events will go ahead as planned no matter the weather.

“It’s still up in the air if Friday night is going to happen just because of Lake Tomah being glare ice, you can’t really ski or snowshoe on glare ice,” he said. “We’ll make that announcement probably within the next day or two on our website. ... That’s this Saturday that will be one no matter what. It’s all indoors, no matter what the weather is, we’ll definitely have that.”

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