BELOIT—Although this year’s Winterfest celebrations were muted in size as many families are staying home, organizers offered a mix of virtual and socially distant activities for residents.

“We still wanted to give them that opportunity to reduce stress and unwind, to kind of reset their lives,” said City of Beloit Recreation Coordinator Nicole Yost. “It’s really important to keep that mental health and physical health peace active at this time.”

Winterfest 2021 included virtual bingo, a cross-town scavenger hunt, a “No Snow” man building contest using household items and a “Ralphie Challenge” to wear the most layers of sweaters. Participants were asked to send a photo and the winners will be announced on Tuesday.

Families were also able to pick up specially prepared mystery book bags from the Beloit Public Library on Saturday as well as prepared cocoa and canvas kits on Thursday.

Jeni Schomber, Head of Library Services at the Beloit Public Library, said families who called ahead were able to pick up mystery book bags on Saturday. The bags were filled with reading tailored to each family’s interests.

Families who were not able to stop by the library on Saturday are still able to pick up their bags Monday, Schomber said.

“After a long, cold day outside, they can snuggle up on the couch with family,” Schomber said. “Being in the middle of winter it’s nice to have something to stimulate your mind and get us out of the doldrum of Wisconsin winters.”

Schomber said library staff were happy to help out with Winterfest by promoting reading.

Yost said her hope was that this year’s alternate activities would still give families an outlet.

“It makes us feel good we want to provide the community with these outlets. We want to bring a little fun to their lives. Seeing the people participate in these activities really makes us feel like we’re doing our part,” Yost said.

For the scavenger hunt, people could find clues around town, driving from each prominent location such as Krueger Park, Hospital Hill, the Downtown area or the water tower. The activity, put on with help from the Welty Environmental Center, included nature facts and trivia.

Looking ahead, Yost said the organizers are hoping for the return of a sleigh ride at Big Hill Park and another luminary walk next time, depending on the pandemic.

“As long as it is safe, we’re hoping to bring back Winterfest in-person next year,” Yost said. “I’m sure people will be itching to get out and socialize.