In Fond du Lac They Celebrate Winter and REALLY BIG Fish!
The frozen tundra … polar vortex … ice bowl …. bomb cyclone – call it what you may when Wisconsin winter temperatures plummet, I’m all about a cozy fire (indoors!) and a warm blanket.
But the folks in Fond du Lac take this weather as an invitation to head outdoors and show their hardiness and quirkiness! First of all there’s the spearing of the sturgeon on frozen Lake Winnebago. I once took a group of photographers from LA out to capture this rite of passage for many families and the celebration of the pre-historic, elusive fish found in only a few parts of the world. They arrived in their overcoats and leather shoes – no hats, no gloves, no boots! Needless to say after a pre-dawn introduction to the shanties and the lake we made a quick dash to the Farm & Fleet! Check out the article they wrote here. If you really want a good introduction to Sturgeon Spearing, watch this video!
Even if you didn’t get your spearing license in October you should really walk or drive out to see the shanties.
At the very least go to one of the weigh-stations after fishing stops for the day (1pm) and see these beasts being recorded for posterity. Two good places to go are Wendt’s on the west side of the lake – grab a Bloody Mary inside and then step lightly over the icy (and sometimes bloody) parking lot. Or head to Jim & Linda’s in Pipe on the east side of the lake and sip on an Old Fashioned while joining in the praise of these intrepid spearers!
The spearing has been going on for centuries and a few years ago the locals decided to welcome friends, family and visitors to their STURGEON SPECTACULAR on and off the lake, February 9 – 11. One time-honored lake tradition is the 29th Annual Sturgeon Stampede about a half-mile offshore from Sunset on the Water Grill & Bar. This is where the guys and gals who fly across the ice on sleds and skates pulled by kites entertain the crowd and compete with each other.
They even have an ice bar and bonfire on the ice! The Sunset is a great place to catch the kites while sipping some hot cocoa and grabbing some really great food!
Off the ice there are plenty of landlubber activities.
There’s Girls’ Outdoor Hockey and the Outdoor Hockey Alumni Classic, Snow-ga (think downward facing dog into a snow bank), a fun run and dog jog, softball, a kids’ fun zone, Spear the Fatty bike race, ice dancing and skating, live entertainment and more in Lakeside Park.
Many of the activities have been centered around Fond du Lac’s downtown. New this year is an Ice Sculpting Competition. Not to be outdone, the regions’ best snow sculptures will gather to make their creations outside the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts (locally known as Thelma). The winners get chosen by a panel of judges and there’s even a people’s choice award.
Be sure to bring kids to this festival.
They will not be bored! In addition to the Fun Zone and family skating at Lakeside Park, the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac puts on Shantytown Fun. You can learn the basics of snow sculpting then sculpt your own and paint your own sturgeon. The Fond du Lac Historical Society is putting on an exhibit at the library on Great Lakes; Small Streams. Take a walk with the family thru downtown to enjoy the window displays. Don’t miss the Running of the Sturgeon Parade on Friday night. There are even great hotel rates so you can make a weekend getaway of it!
No celebration would be complete without food and entertainment and Sturgeon Spectacular delivers!
Friday night there is a Kick-Off Concert at Thelma! Saturday there’s the Downtown Chili Crawl, Comedy Sportz performs and Guys on Ice returns to the stage at 2 and 7pm at Thelma. Catch the Spear the Beer specials at many of the bars. Boogie & The Yo-Yo’s perform Saturday night beginning at 7:30pm at Lakeside Park and Star-Six-Nine @ Fat Joe’s will play beginning at 9 at Fat Joe’s.
Start your Sunday off with Spear the Beer Bloody Mary specials at many of the bars. Guys on Ice can be seen for a matinee beginning at 2pm a Thelma.
With so much to see and do I recommend you park your car at one location and take the Spectacular Shuttle offered Saturday from 11am to 5pm.
For a complete listing of all the events – times and location, go to fdl.com/ss