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January 29. 2014 6:23PM

Milan gets ready for annual Winter Festival

MILAN — The Nansen Ski Club, the oldest continuing nordic ski club in the U.S., will hold its annual Winter Festival on Saturday and Sunday at Milan Hill State Park. Saturday will include a craft fair and lots of family fun, and Sunday is race day.

The 14-kilometer race starts at 10 a.m., followed by a 5K fun race at 11 a.m. At noon, there is a 1K kids’ race. Registration is right at the park. For information on costs, go to http://skinansen.com/racer-registration/.

Hot drinks and snacks will be available at the parking area. A luncheon and awards ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. at the Milan Village School.

On Saturday all the events will take place at the Village School, the ice rink or on the town green, all in the center of town.

A craft fair and food vendors will be at the school from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Other events going on in the school include food vendors, a bounce house and other kids’ activities, a heritage ski display, and boat building demonstration.

Dan Caouette of Clear Stream Custom Watercraft, will demonstrate boat building. He has donated a boat to the Nansen Ski Club to be raffled off. Tickets will be available that day. The drawing will take place at the Club’s Valentine’s Dinner and Dance.

At 3 p.m. Rick Charette will put on a children’s concert.

Outside at the town ice rink, a broomball tournament will get underway at 8 a.m. There will also be snow groomer rides on the town green by the All Weather Snowmobile Club and the Appalachian Mountain Club, and Boy Scouts will be running a number of activities including relay races.

Saturday will culminate with a Burning of the Greens, a bonfire of Christmas trees, near the ice rink, where there will be ice skating and hot chocolate.

Club spokesperson Phoebe Backler said the winter festivals started four years ago as a collaboration between Milan businesses looking for a way to attract people in the winter, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and the Nansen Ski Club.

“At first it was very small but it has grown every year and now has two full days of activities available,” she said.

The Nansen Ski Club started in 1872 as Skiklubben. It was founded by Norwegians who had come to the Berlin area to work in the mills. Initially club meetings were conducted only in Norwegian and it was only open to Scandinavian men who lived in Coos County.

But it wasn’t long before other ethnic groups who enjoyed winter sports came, including French-Canadians from Quebec.

Eventually they were allowed to join and the name changed to the Nansen Ski Club in honor of Fridtiof Nansen, an explorer who crossed Greenland on skis in 1888.

Today the club is open to anyone. Annual dues are only $30 and visitors can come up to use the trails for a day for $5.


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