Whitetail Resort celebrates the great outdoors with annual festival

October 28, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Grant Diefenderfer, 7, of State Line, Pa., right, gave it his all in the junior division of the Pie Eating Contest Sunday at the 12th annual Great Outdoors Festival at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Pa.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — Whitetail Resort, with less than six weeks to go before its 2012-13 winter ski season opens, said goodbye to summer Sunday, the last day of its annual two-day Great Outdoors Festival.

Sunday’s cold, damp weather, the prelude to the predicted major rain and wind storm threatening the area, held festival crowds Sunday to around 800, down from Saturday’s estimate of 2,400, said Whitetail spokeswoman Katrina Gayman.

The outdoor festival is held on the fourth weekend in October, which leads to Oct. 31, the last day to get deals on discount season passes and advantage cards, said Gayman, director of marketing and sales.

This was the 12th year for the festival.

The 2011-12 ski season was well below average due to last winter’s unseasonably warm weather and lack of snow, Gayman said. In good seasons, like 2009 and 2010, the resort near Mercersburg draws 180,000 to 200,000 skiers and snowboarders. More than 80 percent are from the Washington/Baltimore Metropolitan area, she said.

Whitetail has about 35 full-time employees who work year-round. The number of part-timers swells to about 1,200 in winter, she said.

“Our ski season usually starts around the first of December,” Gayman said.

The weekend festival offered attractions for many tastes.

Among them were the wood chopping, sawing and pole-climbing demonstrations by members of the Penn State Mont Alto Woodsmen Team, a co-ed sports club at the school.

Most of the 15 team members are forestry students, although others are graphics design, business and animal science majors. Four of the members are women.

Faculty member Beth Brantley, a team coach, said the school has been putting on demonstrations at the festival for five years. She said it’s an opportunity for team members to try new skills in a setting where they are not under the pressure of a competitive event.

Maddie Erickson, 19, a forestry major at Mont Alto, had a little trouble in her first attempt at the pole climb. She struggled to the top, lost her grip several times and dangled from the safety rope.

“It wasn’t my best climb,” she said. “The pole was a little wobbly.”

She also competes in cross-cut and chain sawing, she said.

Woodsmen Team members at Penn State, including the main and Mont Alto campuses, compete against Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and other schools on the collegiate circuit, Erickson said.

A few yards away from the wood-chopping arena, Joe Stebbings of Thurmont, Md., was maneuvering his chain saw as it was nipping at a log that would, when he finished, resemble nothing like a chunk of wood.

Stebbings makes his living with his art.

“It was my hobby for six years,” he said. “I realized I was making as much money carving as I did plumbing, so I decided to do full time what I enjoy best.”

Stebbings said his pieces sell from $100 to $300 at festivals, but commissioned major works can sell into the thousands.

Festivalgoers had a choice of weekend activities. There was catch-and-release fishing, paintball and archery shooting for kids, a petting zoo and pony rides, reptiles and raptors, music and a large craft show inside.

Whitetail Resort is owned by Snow Time Inc. of York, Pa. The company also owns Liberty Mountain Resort in Fairfield, Pa., and Roundtop Mountain Resort near Dillsburg, Pa., Gayman said.

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