Jumpfest: From The Sublime To The Silly In Salisbury
Photos by Mark Niedhammer.
By Lisa Green
Very soon, there will be things going on in Salisbury you aren’t likely to find anywhere else: a human dog sled race, a leaf blower air hockey tournament, a curling demonstration. And most especially, the annual Jumpfest Winter Festival, with the 89th Salisbury Invitational Championships at the Satre Hill Ski Jumps as its centerpiece February 6-8.
Sponsored by the Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA), a volunteer-driven organization, Jumpfest (including the Winter Festival in the week preceding) is the organization’s main fundraiser.
“A lot of people don’t realize we’re a nonprofit,” says Willie Hallihan, an SWSA board member and one of the volunteer organizers. “Our mission is to teach children how to ski, both downhill and cross country. We provide the equipment for jumping, travel money and scholarships.”
The effort pays off. Three of the four ski jumpers on the Olympics team last year competed here. It’s a sure bet that some of the young competitors will end up in the next Winter Games. Jumpfest culminates with the Eastern US Jumping Championships.
Last year, the three-day festival started a week early with art show openings, restaurant specials, a cocktail party and other events. “It turned into more of a winter festival, with ski jumping as its core, but it allowed other local businesses to benefit, too,” Hallihan says. This year, there’s a “Slackers Triathlon” kickoff party at Sharon Valley Tavern, and throughout the week retailers and restaurants will be offering specials and sales. Also on the schedule: gallery receptions, tastings and a host of other mingling events.
Jumpfest events start on Friday evening with a chili cook-off prior to the target jumping, followed by the ever-popular human dogsled races. The weekend will feature spectacular ice carving demonstrations, and leaf blower air hockey, which is not done anywhere else in the contiguous United States, says Hallihan. Participants wear backpack or handheld leaf blowers and blow a ball into a goal. “We don’t think it will require a lot of human prowess. Saturday night’s the Snow Ball Dance, and throughout the weekend there will be activities for the kids including sledding and hot chocolate, and a ski jump simulator that lets little ones get a taste of what being airborne feels like.
But it’s the ski jumping that really brings out the crowds. In 2014 about 5,000 people attended (the weather was perfect, says Hallihan). If Mother Nature doesn’t provide any snow this year, they’ll make it.
“If you have not seen ski jumping live, hearing the skis slapping down, people ringing cowbells, people cheering, you haven’t seen the sport,” Hallihan says. “Once you have, you’ll probably come back.”
Jumpfest, A Winter Festival
In and around Salisbury, CT
January 30 – February 8
Click here for a calendar of events and ticket information.