I’m always impressed with cities that take a perceived shortcoming and turn it into an asset. In the world of tourism, cold weather is typically considered a shortcoming that is often blamed for the exodus of our young creative minds who head south seeking warmer climate. So unless you’ve got great mountains to go with that cold weather, your city can be at a competitive disadvantage. To fight back, some cities have embraced the cold and used it to sponsor great winter events. Take a look — and loosen up your throwing arm, it’s time to set a world record for the largest snowball fight here in Kent!
I have to be honest, like many of our peers 20 years ago, winter was one of the reasons my wife and I headed south after we graduated from college in upstate NY, and the return to great white north and its harsh winter was the only thing I worried about when we moved to Kent. Mother Nature must have been looking out for us last year because it was more like a Tennessee winter than an Ohio winter, but with 7 inches worth of snow last week I’m guessing this year may be an altogether different animal.
All that being said, thanks to last week’s snowfall, I was reminded how much fun snow can be. My kids and I blasted away at each other in a snowball fight in the front, side and back yard. A few pairs of wet gloves later we also built a couple of snowman scenes and called it a great day. Pretty routine stuff for the locals on a winter’s afternoon, but imagine taking that event and turning it into a competition that draws teams from all over into Kent — I’d call that snow tourism, Kent style.
Here’s a few examples of what other cities have accomplished with their challenging weather:
World Snowball Championships
In winter, only a few people were seen on Mt. Showa-Shinzan, which was visited by many tourists in summer, and so it was the earnest wish and an important challenge of Sobetsu Town to revitalize the regional economy in the slack season. “Let’s make use of the ‘snow’ that isolates Sobetsu in the dark winter and embark on completely new town development.” – a movement arose among the townspeople to recognize the status and problems of the community and to gather their wisdom and energy.
“Let’s make a central event first as a means of regional revitalization!” A group of young people (engaged in commerce, tourism, agriculture and the public service) took action in August 1987 and formed the “Idea Review Committee.” Although a number of ideas including a ski marathon were considered, none of them were adequate as they were already implemented in other places.
Discussions continued day after day without a breakthrough. Then, in December of the same year, an idea of creating a yukigassen (snowball fighting) event to “recreate the fun of playing in snow in modern times” occurred from the sight of Southeast Asian tourists playing in the snow. It was the birth of the Showa-Shinzan International Yukigassen.
Begun in the late 1980’s in one of north Japans cold towns, Sobetsucho decided it needed to attract more winter tourists and so developed the activity of snowball throwing. The idea took around a year to finalize.
The competition that resulted consists of two teams of seven players facing each other whilst standing in a field as wide as a tennis court and as long as 1.5 tennis courts. A flag for each team is placed deep inside each teams half. 3ft high walls of snow, built by the teams themselves exist to protect players from the maelstrom of snowball chucking that ensues. Once the game is officially started the players, all wearing helmets, try to hit the opposition with batch produced, competition size snowballs 2.56-2.76 inches in diameter. Once hit a player is out of the game. Winning teams are those that have the most players remaining at the end of a three minute set, or those that have taken the opposing players flag into their half of the pitch. 90 snowballs are provided for each team. 3 sets are played in a match.
What was once child’s play has now evolved into a game requiring heavy tactics, skills and cunning.
This game was so unusual that a crazy new daredevil ski film by Warren Miller titled ‘Off The Grid’ included the snowball competition amongst its action sequences!
The snowball tournament brings close to 30,000 people to this small town each year, who spend lots of Yen.
World Snowball Fight and Snow Angels Record
Michigan Tech broke three world records, the largest snowball (21′ 3″ circumference), largest snowball fight (3,745), and most simultaneous snow angels (3,784) in February 2006, as verified by Guiness World Record book officials. This attempt received criticisms from Bismarck, North Dakota the previous holders of the record for most simultaneous snow angels. Much of the criticism focused upon the school children who were excused from school in order to participate, even though without their numbers the old record would still have yielded.
Pond Hockey Championship
Hockey, the way nature intended. Outdoors in the crisp winter air, blades gliding across natural ice, with the sounds of sticks clacking. Sound good? Take your squad to Minneapolis each year and compete for the golden shovel award presented to the last teams standing in the annual Pond Hockey Tournament .
Watch a Video Clip made by the events founders.
This year’s tournament: January 19-27, 2007 Lake Calhoun Minneapolis, Minnesota
Upstate NY Cities compete for most snowfall in a season
The Golden Snowball Award is a contest between 5 cities in CNY – Upstate New York. The contest is based on which city receives the most snowfall for the snow season. The city’s that compete are Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, Rochester and last years Champion, Syracuse. A trophy along with a cash prize is awarded to the winning city every year.
What signature winter event should we do in Kent? Let me know what you think.