Bundle up to tee up at Wally Ice Fest.
Looking to return after two years of warm weather prevented the festivities, the event features not only a golf tournament but also a pond hockey competition, golf-ball driving contest and curling demonstrations, all on the frozen surface of Lake Wallenpaupack.
Activities run Saturday, Jan. 27, and Sunday, Jan. 28, on the ice outside Silver Birches, 205 Route 507, and the Boat House Restaurant, 141 Route 507, both in Palmyra Twp.
While a lack of enough ice kept the festival from going forward in recent years, this winter’s cold snap froze about a foot of the lake’s surface heading into last week’s warmer weather, said Keith Williams, Lake Wallenpaupack Visitors Center manager and one of the event organizers.
“Granted, ice doesn’t form uniformly across the entire lake, but it’s a really good start to the season. … We keep a close watch on it, so ideally we’re looking for 10 inches of ice for safety, to be able to handle the activity that we have planned on the ice,” he said.
If the lake does not freeze, enough, however, the pond hockey tournament and curling demonstrations will be moved to nearby Promised Land State Park for the weekend (the golf tournament and driving contest would be canceled). Organizers used to set aside an alternative date for the festival later in the season in the event of low ice levels, but with hockey players coming from outside the area to participate, Williams said, “it’s real difficult to shift people’s vacation schedule to accommodate” another date.
Under current plans, the adult pond hockey tournament will take place both days, and teams will play four-on-four games with two 15-minute periods and a five-minute intermission. Registration is $360 per team of four to six players, and teams are matched against one another based on skill level. Organizers will set up two rinks outside Silver Birches and four by the Boat House.
Long organized by Chamber of the Northern Poconos, the Ice Tee Golf Tournament runs Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and participants can register in advance for $20 and each day for $25.
“Sunday’s going to be the bigger day,” Williams said. “We’ll have some kind of prizes with craziest sled, craziest hat, those types of things.”
Golfers will compete on one of two nine-hole courses outside Silver Birches, where they will tee off from an artificial green and aim for a Christmas tree marking each extra-large hole (which do not go all the way through the ice).
Golfers will receive a colored golf ball, scorecard and map and should bring two clubs plus a putter.
“You don’t need any special shoes, although we recommend people dressing warm,” Williams said.
Throughout the weekend, Anthracite Curling Club of Wilkes-Barre will give free demonstrations of the Olympic sport near the Boat House and let visitors try it as well.
“That’s kind of another unique piece to (the weekend),” Williams said.
On Sunday, visitors can see how close they can hit a golf ball to a 6-foot-tall snowman dubbed Wally in a driving contest benefiting the chamber. The three hitters who come closest win prizes.
“You don’t have to play golf (in the tournament) to do that,” Williams said. “You can go down and just try.”
Participants and spectators are encouraged to park at lots off Route 507 across from Tanglwood Resort; East Shore Lodging, 2487 Route 6; the visitors center, 2512 Route 6; and Wallenpaupack Area High School, 2552 Route 6, all in Palmyra Twp., and take the shuttle bus to both event locations, since the restaurants have spaces reserved for patrons. Organizers estimate the trip will take about five minutes between each stop.
Visitors can watch the on-ice activities for free, and Williams said the festival also gives guests a chance to dine at local restaurants, visit cultural sites such as the Sculpted Ice Works Factory Tour & Ice Harvest Museum in Lakeville, which will provide ice sculptures at each tee and an ice bar at Silver Birches, plus other winter activities in an area known as a summer destination.
“We’ve got really great restaurants and pubs, and this is a really great way to bring business … to those folks,” he said.
If you go
What: Wally Ice Fest, featuring pond hockey and Ice Tee Golf tournaments and curling demonstrations
When: Saturday, Jan. 27, and Sunday, Jan. 28
Where: The Dock on Wallenpaupack and Silver Birches, 205 Route 507, Palmyra Twp., and The Boat House Restaurant, 141 Route 507, Palmyra Twp.
Details: Participation costs $360 per hockey team, and $20 in advance and $25 the day of the event for the golf tournament. Register for the adult pond hockey and Ice Tee Golf tournaments online at WallyIceFest.com. Curling demonstrations are free.