It’s become a tradition for my dear wife Karen and I to make sure we head to the Syracuse, N.Y., downtown space called Hanover Square at this time of year.
Since 1985, hardy and hearty Central New Yorkers have been given the opportunity to make the most of this cold, snowy season here in the Northeast by attending Winterfest.
There are all sorts of events.
Karen and I like to pick the day of the Chili Cook-Off, where restaurants stir the cauldrons of heat, meat, and beans with their individual flavor, sometimes mysterious and sometimes not.
Hundreds of people walk from canopy to canopy to sample them all, and get to pick their favorite chili. That establishment gets the people’s award, which is served up alongside a judges award.
Last year, though, we were convinced by a group of friends to take part in the Wing Walk instead.
That’s one of an increasing amount of Winterfest events where you buy tickets in advance, and traverse the blocks around the square to actually enter the participating bars and restaurants to sample their food or drinks.
That was a blast, too.
Our friends who organized that Wing Walk Frenzy of 2013 — I’ll call siblings Michelle and Scott Martin the kingpins — liked the way all the friends who participated ended up back around Scott’s pickup truck in a nearby parking lot to drinks some more and eat some more and talk a whole lot more.
Martinfest was born.
This year, they made shirts to commemorate the event and gave them to friends and family.
Karen and I proudly wore ours last Saturday. We parked in the same lot as Scott’s truck, along with at least a half-dozen more vehicles attacked to Martinfest.
We ate from a portable table stuffed with tasty stuff brought pot-luck style.
Karen came up with an ingenious plan for our contribution. With an assortment of bottles and mixers, she concocted four racks of test tubes filled with deliciousness, fruity and otherwise. She called it her Martin DNA test, and there were a pile of wood swabs ready to rub inside your cheek to prove how much Martin spirit you really have before you downed or sipped the shot of your choice. All in fun.
I sipped some Bud Light Lime instead, and worked my way to and from the parking lot for Martinfest and Hanover Square for Winterfest.
I like them both. A lot.
If you’d like to my community blog about the big day on waer.org, the site for Syracuse Public Media, click on the link below.
There’s a good photo that captures the spirit of the Chili Cook-Off there, I promise.
The Martins — sibling Kevin and his lovely wife pulled in to increase the level of real Martins at the event, too — made sure to bring along their bean bag toss game for the tailgate athletes in the crowd, too.
Bridging the end of February with the upcoming March Madness, they drew up an NCAA Tournament-like bracket.
That may have been a tad optimistic about the level of participation, but those who played had fun.
I’m told the Martins returned Sunday for the Wing Walk.
Now that’s endurance.
Does your community organize an event to embrace winter? Do you think you’d enjoy Winterfest and Martinfest?