DeKALB – Better late than never.
Although warming temperatures in the days leading up to Polarpalooza restricted the number of activities available Sunday, flurries of snow billowed down on Hopkins Park just as the DeKalb Park District’s annual event began.
“This is the fourth year for this event, and it has looked different every year because it’s weather dependent,” said Park District recreation supervisor Rachel Schmit, who was one of the event organizers. “This is perfect. It’s snowing outside. This is what we want.”
Schmit’s co-organizer, Park District athletic coordinator Jeff Myles, said certain activities had to be cut but were replaced with alternatives that were practical with the weather. A snowball-throwing adventure replaced the snowman-building contest and field hockey – led by Northern Illinois University’s hockey team – replaced its icy cousin.
Although precipitation arrived late, there was enough stacked from previous snows that Lyn Bute’s work was unaffected.
The local artist and snow sculptor began carving a giant polar bear out of a pillar of snow at 10 a.m. Sunday and kept chiseling away as the event went on.
Bute has provided a sculpture for the festival each year since its inception. This year, he decided to play on the name.
“This was my idea,” he said. “Polarpalooza: I decided a polar bear would be really [appropriate].”
Festival attendees also were charmed by smaller animals. Raven’s Husky Haven and Rescue brought two dogs to Polarpalooza for kids to pet at a “kissing booth.” Proudly DeKalb’s Street Team brought costumed mascots for the second year in a row.
“All of the kids loved it. It’s probably the highlight of [Polarpalooza], at least in my opinion,” said Carolyn Hannon, an NIU student who leads the Street Team.
She spent much of Sunday flanked by a costumed penguin and snowman.
“I love seeing the kids’ reactions,” she said. “They love to take pictures, and even the parents want to be involved, too. It’s a lot of fun.”
Kyle Saros, accompanying his young daughter, Margaret, said he was looking forward to cooking s’mores at the fire pit. Margaret, meanwhile, said she was excited for “everything.”
Admission for the event was free, and once inside, hot cocoa from Oberweis and s’mores kits also were provided for free.
“This is the people’s district – this is part of what the taxes go to,” Schmit said. “So this is one way that we give back to the community and a way that we reach out to everyone.”