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NEWPORT â€“ The 26th Annual Newport Winter Festival is right around the corner and the preparations have already begun to accommodate the 30,000 plus people that will share in the festivities.
The events include the Samuel Adams Chili Cook-off, a comedy show, an ice sculpture demonstration, a hot drink competition, a cold day at the beach with a plunge into the freezing ocean, the Radio Disney Childrenâ€™s Fair and a musical line-up that includes BeatleMania, Jimmy Buffetâ€™s endorsed tribute band Changes in Latitudes, Tish Adams and Dick Lupino.
â€śThe comedy show tends to be one of the most popular events at the festival,â€ť said Karen Kososs of the Newport Winter Festival. â€śIt has been going on for years. One of the new events is the Polar Pineapples ice bar. There's a beautiful view of the harbor and the bridge from the restaurant. We're very excited about it.â€ť
Joe Rocco of RocJo Productions has been putting on the Newport Winter Festival comedy show for ten years.
â€śWe do one show every year in junction with the Newport Winter Festival,â€ť said Rocco. â€śIt always features some of the top headlines that appear around the country, but mostly Boston or New York guys. This Friday, the performers are Paul Dâ€™Angelo and Mike Donovan. Dâ€™Angelo is a really, really, really funny guy. Heâ€™s funnier than most of the major big names that we have in the summer series. The only difference is he hasnâ€™t had a hit movie or an HBO special. Donovan is good too, but Dâ€™Angelo is phenomenal.â€ť
Kicking off on Valentineâ€™s Day, the festival is offering a commemorative button that will grant free or discounted access to all festival activities as well as discounts at over 50 local businesses.
The souvenir button is $9 and can be purchased at AAA Southern New England in Middletown, Newport Visitorâ€™s Center, Newport Marriott Gift Shop, Hampton Inn & Suites, Shawâ€™s Supermarket, International Tennis Hall of Fame, Hotel Viking, Hyatt Regency, Marriott Residence Inn, Walgreens, Newport Harbor Hotel, Ocean Breeze, Wag Nation, Bailey Tâ€™s, Cookie Jar, and Clements Marketplace of Portsmouth.
â€śWe've had a souvenir button since we've started,â€ť said Kossos. â€śItâ€™s a cute, collectible souvenir button that will give you a discount at any event that we're having.â€ť
The family-friendly atmosphere of the festival extends even further this year. Children and parents have plenty of activities to choose from, including the block hunt and sand sculpture competition at Eastonâ€™s Beach, the children's fair, the kid's dance party, Teddy Bear Story Time, a jazz concert for kids, and the princess party, which is limited to the first 100 guests.
â€śThe Childrenâ€™s Fair is a great family-oriented event,â€ť said Kososs. â€śThere will be live music, face painting, a karate demonstration and a dance demonstration.â€ť
The karate demonstration is new this year and will offer guests a view into the craft through Newport Martial Arts.
â€śThey are having a karate winter open house,â€ť said Kososs. â€śItâ€™s to introduce students and parents to basic karate skills. Itâ€™s safe and family-friendly and is totally free with the button.â€ť
Of course, there is plenty for adults to enjoy by themselves, too. Pineapples Restaurant will be transforming into Rhode Islandâ€™s largest ice bar, offering infused Ice-tinis and hot cocktails. The festivities also feature the Absolut Bloody Mary Competition, a tropical drink contest, a martini contest and a hot drink contest.
The Newport Winter Festival spans the entire county, injecting the deadened winter economy with life every year.
â€śThe amazing thing about the Newport Winter Festival is that there is something for everyone to enjoy,â€ť Evan Smith, president and CEO of Discover Newport, said in a statement. â€śThe combination of exciting events blended together with all the places to explore in Newport County makes for a really fun getaway.â€ť
If you go
Newport Winter Festival runs Feb. 14 to 23 and features over 150 events between 9:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day. For the full calendar of events visit www.newportevents.com/winterfest. For more info call 846-7666.