While my family in Arkansas shivered in the cold and slid on snow and ice, Lake Havasu celebrated its annual Winterfest under sunshine filtered by high white clouds. Winter celebrations are relative to location. For example Bar Harbor, Michigan, hosts the Bay Harbor Ice & Spice Festival with ice carving competitions and a chili cook off. For over a century, Minnesota’s Rice Park has been a center stage for Saint Paul’s Winter Carnival. Its signature event is the ice carving competition. The Saint Paul Vulcans welcome winter with “Snow Park at the Fair,” complete with fire truck rides, a medallion hunt, games for kids, and fun on the snow slide. Arizona puts a different spin on winter.
For 29 years, the desert town of Lake Havasu has blocked off McCulloch Boulevard between Acoma Boulevard and Smoketree Avenue for a carnival atmosphere. We jostled shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of people of all ages browsing the vendors’ booths and tents. With something available for everyone, shoppers created a kaleidoscope of colors and a hum of chatter as they looked at soaps, toe rings, candles, western wall art, little girls’ frilly frocks, big girls flowing dresses, jewelry, jams, and jellies. At least a dozen people crowded around bright yellow and red dune buggies, some even sliding in the seats to fantasize about flying over desert dunes.
The day early in February was warm; folks dressed in everything from light sweatshirts and boots to tank tops, shorts, and flip-flops. To us, the parade of dogs scattered through the crowd proved the most interesting. Big dogs from a Dalmatian to a St. Bernard strolled on the end of leashes. Smaller dogs often rode in doggie strollers or some other makeshift conveyance. Lee made friends when a big furry black dog sat on his feet. The dog’s mistress said he was bred to pull milk trucks—and he sat down to be hooked into a harness.
The aromas of hot dogs, sandwich wraps, kettle corn, and cinnamon buns wafted over the sidewalk’s palm trees. Strains of music mingled with conversations up and down the streets—a singer’s rich voice, chords and arpeggios amplified from a keyboard, and a young boy getting a lesson on electronic drums. For two days at the Main Stage in the center of the fair, guitars pickers plucked lively tunes and singers belted out lyrics in country music voices. A beer garden in front of the stage provided seating for folks sipping icy lemonades and biting into grilled hot dogs, wrap sandwiches, nachos, or a bag of sticky warm popcorn.
After walking down the street and back up, we opted to return to our Jeep and seek out Black Bear Diner for a lunch of home-style cooking. We discovered the restaurant had its start on the site of wild strawberry patches near Mount Shasta in California. The menu and ambience of the diner reminds its patrons of a time when life was a bit more simple. That original restaurant has grown into a number of locations along highways of the Western United States. Somehow, despite the tempting whiffs of the street fair food, our lunch was more satisfying.
Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com