Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Celebrate cold weather in Fort Wayne

Happenings all over town on January 25

Michele DeVinney

Whatzup Features Writer

Published January 16, 2020

Now in its ninth year, Winterval in downtown Fort Wayne provides a day of activities and events which caters to both the lovers and haters of winter.

“There are both indoor and outdoor activities so there really is something for everyone,” said Patti Davis, supervisor of recreation services and Community Center manager which all fall under the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation banner. 

INside and Out

“There’s the winter hike and bonfire, the Old Fort is going to become a French Garrison in 1760, and there’s a bike ride and ice skating,” Davis said. “Obviously all of those are outdoors. But there are also things going on at the library, the Botanical Conservatory, and Science Central for those who prefer to stay indoors.”

The Old Fort event, titled Nouvelle Annee, will feature the usual reenactors, a bake sale, and coffee or cocoa to warm visitors from the inside out. Admission is free, and the re-enactments will go from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. 

Science Central will bring a bit of education to their event: making liquid nitrogen ice cream. Admission for that event is $8 but includes access to all of the center’s activities and exhibits. 

Similarly, the Botanical Conservatory charges its usual admission fee ($3-$5) and includes admission to the current exhibit, “Dog Days of Winter” in addition to the Winterval events which include potting a plant and making a bird feeder. The Conservatory will also host one of many ice carvings around the downtown area, with the number of those continuing to grow right up until the final days before Winterval.

“There are nine sponsored ice carvings this year,” Davis said. “Then there’s Penguin Lot which will feature a series of penguins doing different activities like ice skating. All together there will be 29 ice carvings this year.”

Weather Dependent

Recent winters have been somewhat mild though there have been some brutally cold days sprinkled in to otherwise tame weather. Davis concedes that Winterval is very weather dependent.

“We’ve had times when it’s been 60 degrees and times that we’ve had a snow advisory,” she said. “It can vary a lot. That plays a role in the ice carvings of course. We’ve had times when it’s been cold enough that the ice carvings lasted three to four weeks after and times when they’re gone by the next day. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what the carving was by later in the day as it loses its shape from the warmth or the sun.”

Winterval events take place all day long and many are free. 

The hike and bonfire Davis mentioned is what kicks off the day and takes place at Lindenwood Nature Preserve at 9 a.m. The hike is guided and is free to all. Classic Café on Hilegas Road hosts the Picture Car/Scale Model Show, also free and open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. 

Headwaters Park hosts both skating exhibitions as well as public skating ($3-$5) from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Allen County Public Library downtown will host free children’s crafts and a movie from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. as well as serving as a site for one of the ice carvings.

The winter bike ride covers the Lawton Park Trailhead and runs from Lawton Park to Franke Park and then back to Lawton. The ride is free and begins at 1 p.m. A helmet is strongly encouraged. Also at Lawton Park at 1 p.m. is the Snow Bowl Rugby Game which features competition from the area rugby club. Admission is free. 

The Community Center on West Main hosts free snow crafts and activities from 1-4 p.m. and will also be a site for ice carving as well as a nine-hole miniature golf course complete with carved ice obstacles. Dog Sled Demonstrations will take place at Headwaters Park from 1-4 p.m. with the Heartland Mushers providing demos regardless of the weather. Admission is free. 

Brand new events

Then there are a couple of events or aspects of events which are brand new to Winterval in 2020.

“The Winter Farmhand Competition is new this year as is the bike ride,” Davis said. “We had originally planned the bike ride for last year but had to cancel it. The events at the Community Center have a Frozen theme, and the ice carvings will be Frozen characters. We’ll also have Anna here for photos and maybe Elsa, too.”

The Winter Farmhand Competition will take place at Hop River Brewing 5-7 p.m. and has a $15 entry fee. Among the skills up for competition are Lasso, Tractor Tire Flip, Rippin’ Sleeves, and Huckin’ Straw Bales. 

The day winds down with the Winter Cozy at Promenade Park, a 21 and over event which costs $10 and includes games, live music, dancing, and drink luges. 

Davis also promises one particularly interesting event at the Cozy.

“There will be Human Dog Sled Races which should be interesting,” Davis said with a laugh. “If you want to see the actual dogs leading the sleds then that can be seen at Headwaters Park, but these sled will be led by humans.”

Whatever your feelings about winter, Davis promises there is plenty of fun to be had at this year’s Winterval and encourages people to look for last minute updates on the Facebook page or at

“We try to grow the event every year,” she said. “We started out with five or six events each year and this year have 13 events and facilities involved. There’s something for everyone, and many of the events are free which makes them available to anyone who wants to participate. We want to reach everyone, adults and kids alike.”

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