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Only Steps Forward: Get out and enjoy Auburn during Annual Winter Festival

By Jonathan P. LaBonte

Mayor of Auburn

It’s winter. We are in Maine. And despite the thaw that came through the last couple of weeks, we still have a couple more months of cold and snow.

Luckily, here in Auburn there are things to do all winter to get outside and stay active. And, one weekend each winter, the city partners with dozens of groups in the community for the Annual Winter Festival. You won’t want to miss it this year.

The last weekend of January is packed full of activities that can keep you outside and active or inside staying warm with music and hot chocolate. The beauty of this event is it truly does offer a little something for each resident, or visitor, to experience.

If you have kids and want them to burn some energy, you’ll want to come down to Main Street where city staff will be building a massive playground out of snow for the weekend. It will be open all day and is free for kids. With so many other activities in walking distance from there, park in the garage and make the playground your first stop.

A short walk up Main Street on Saturday and you and your family can take in a free movie hosted by the Auburn Public Library and then make your way back to Festival Plaza for a grilled cheese and hot chocolate at an event hosted by Relay for Life.

And what would a Winter Festival in Auburn be without lots of activities up at Lost Valley? Baxter Outdoors hosts a 10K duathlon for those of you feeling ambitious on a Saturday morning, or you can just take advantage of a great deal on lift tickets and spend the day skiing and checking out the continued improvements being made to this local ski hill under its new ownership.

LA Arts is hosting a series of events all weekend out of One Great Falls Plaza, or the old Key Bank building as many locals know it. These will include live music, an ice-carving display, a fashion show hosted by youth from the Root Cellar and metal-forging demonstrations from students of the New England School of Metalwork.

While the summer months are filled with live music at Festival Plaza in downtown along the river, there’s no reason not to get out and listen to live music when the temperatures drop below freezing. Just dress warm!

City staff have lined up bands to play and an ice bar is being hosted by two local breweries, Gritty McDuff’s and Baxter. The events Saturday conclude with fireworks shot over the river with viewing from Main Street.

Ever been to a horse farm? The Sanctuary at Maple Hill Farms is sponsoring a “Pet a Pony” on Sunday afternoon of the festival at the Brickwell Barn on North River Road. Why not take the family on a drive into rural Auburn and learn more about these rescued horses while feeding them carrots and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.

Demonstrating that this event is a chance to all residents to get involved, our friends at the Auburn Housing Authority are hosting an open house at the Roak Block with the residents there. The open house will include a bake sale and free hot chocolate, if you need to warm up from playing at the outdoor snow playground across the street.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to see the historic Foss Mansion of the Women’s Literary Union, perched up off Elm Street. Sunday afternoon of the festival will feature a cabaret-style performance by long time New Auburn resident Larry Gowell.

I could go on and on about the many other events I didn’t get to highlight, but hopefully you’ve read enough to catch your interest.

For a full schedule, go to or search for Winter Festival, City of Auburn, Maine

on Facebook. While staff help with some of the promotion, volunteer groups and local businesses make much of this weekend possible.

Please be sure to thank them when you stop by!

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