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Rotary WinterFest celebrates the season

Thousands of community members converged in the business district Jan. 29 in the village of Skaneateles to celebrate winter and all it has to offer, from comfort foods and sled dog rides to a quick dip in the lake.

Throughout the last seven years, Skaneateles Winterfest has turned the last Saturday in January from a quiet day in the village into a full-blown community event. While the day included a 5K fun run, Polar Bear Swim and the Taste of Skaneateles - which made its debut two years ago and was the centerpiece of Winterfest last year - it gave merchants an opportunity to have a good business day during one of the slowest months of the year, said Skaneateles Sunrise Rotary Club Winterfest Chair Tom Seeley.

"Our goal really is to make this a community-wide event," he said.

This year, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church also got on board and offered a dessert auction to benefit the church.

Winterfest is meant to be a reflection of the community, and with that in mind, Seeley said his goal would be to have as many different local organizations participate in the event.

One such organization, the Skaneateles Polar Bear Club, more than doubled the number of swimmers this year after its inaugural swim during the 2010 Winterfest.

Forty swimmers - separated into 11 teams - braved the frigid waters of Skaneateles Lake. The water temperature, a brisk 35 degrees, was much warmer than the air, which was reportedly only 5 degrees at the lakefront. The youngest to take the plunge again this year was Sasha Darovskih, 17, said Sherie Ramsgard, a member of the Skaneateles Polar Bear Club.

Registration fees and donations collected will be split between SAVES, the Skaneateles Fire Department and the Skaneateles Education Foundation to continue supporting the local organizations.

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