Buckeye Lake’s annual Winterfest means there’s no need to wait until the weather thaws for a trip, or even a dip, in the lake. Because there’s nothing quite like the weekend-long winter festival that begins at dawn on Saturday, Jan. 25.
The festival kicks off as it does every year with a prediction from Benny the Bass (think Groundhog’s Day but using bait instead of a shadow), followed by fireworks, music and dozens of festivities across the entire lake region. Activities span from morning until night with live bands, art shows, shop specials, marina open houses, and of course, plenty of food, wine, beer, and good company.
Many businesses are participating in this year’s Winterfest, but here are some of the highlights for Saturday, Jan. 25:
Festival Kickoff – North Shore Boat Ramp
Starts: 6 a.m.
Watch the fireworks, listen to music and find out if Benny the Bass will take the bait, or if there will be six more weeks of winter.
Food, Drinks & Entertainment
Boatyard at Buckeye Lake – Buckeye Lake
Opens 6 a.m., just in time for the morning fireworks with a great and view of the action, right outside the bar’s front door.
Moe’s Food Truck will be onside all day. Live entertainment is scheduled: local Todd Emerick at 3 p.m. and Gayla Smith and Mike Nelson at 6 p.m.
Opens: 7 a.m. with $5 Bloody Mary Bar and free breakfast (until gone)
There’s music lined up throughout the day, including Dan Wallace from 2 to 6 p.m. and DJ Jay at 8 p.m.
Weidner’s Corner 2 – Baltimore
Entertainment starts at 2 p.m. with Benny burgers and drink specials.
Buckeye Lake Brewery– Buckeye Lake
Opens: 6 a.m., serving up a great selection of craft beers, including Coffee Stout. Chef Shack will be serving up breakfast burritos.
There will be a large heated tent on the front patio for a live, acoustic band performance by Paper Street Music Company from 6 to 10 p.m.
Buckeye Lake Winery– Thornville
Opens: 6 a.m. with great viewing spot for the fireworks at dawn, complete with Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s.
Musical Showdown with bands and solo artists competing for gigs during the lake’s peak season and a cash prize runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Rock This Way performs 5 to 9 p.m.
The Port Smokehouse– Thornville
Opens: 9 a.m. with Bloody Marys, Winter Sangrias and Fire Cider and lots of delicious menu items
There will be free caricature drawings, a roaring bonfire by the lake, and woodcarvers with many items for purchase.
Waterfront on Buckeye Lake -Thornville
Opens: 9 a.m. for the “Biggest Winter Party on Buckeye Lake”
The Jack will perform at 11 a.m.
Shop & Leisure
Buckeye Lake Place – Millersport
Sip & Shop from 10 a.m. to noon for vintage, nautical items and home decor.
Stop by for mimosas, free giveaways, raffles, and sales.
Fisher’s Marina– Millersport
Open: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Stop by the marina for an open house sales event. All boat show specials are extended to the open house.
Winterfest Art Show at Buckeye Lake Yacht Club – Buckeye Lake
Open: 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Local artists from the Buckeye Lake area and Central Ohio will be featured, along with live entertainment — Kelly Vaughn from 9 a.m. to noon, and Jason Turpening from 1 to 5 p.m.
Grab a breakfast sandwich, “coffee with a kick” and watch fireworks by the campfire.
Bar hopping bus service
For transportation around the lake, Barr Hopper will have three buses running to different locations until 2:30 a.m. The bus schedule will be posted on the Barr Hopper Facebook page as the festival gets closer.
Wristbands to ride are $30 and can be purchased by calling 740-695-2114. Anyone living around the lake (Hebron, Millersport, and Thornville) will also have a shuttle service to be picked up/dropped off at their house.
To close out the festival on Sunday, Jan. 26, there’s also the oldest and coldest Winterfest tradition: the polar plunge at Buckeye Lake Winery. The plunge was started by the winery seven years ago as a fundraising opportunity and has grown every year. At least 50 people are expected to jump in the lake’s frigid water to raise money for area United Ways this year, supporting Licking, Fairfield, and Perry counties.
There will also be a costume competition, which can be just as entertaining as watching people jump into the lake. For those who don’t want to brave the lake’s chill, spectators are welcomed and encouraged.
Doors open at 11 a.m., followed by a costume contest at 12 p.m. The plunge begins at 1 p.m.
For more information check out the Buckeye Lake Region Chamber of Commerce Facebook page, or check out this map with details on each participating business.