WATERVILLE — Despite scaled-back offerings and a new name, a long-standing event on Quarry Road still drew hundreds on Saturday.

Formerly known as the Winter Carnival, the newly titled Community Free Ski Day & Winter Fun Day went off without a hitch Saturday, as people from Waterville and surrounding towns came to see what was offered at the Quarry Road Recreation Area. Gates opened at 8 a.m. at the 220-acre site, but the event — which included free skiing, snowshoeing, bicycling and a snow sculpture contest— kicked off at 10 a.m. Caroline Mathes, an organizer of the event and a member of the Friends of Quarry Road board of directors, said the site had been busy with visitors since 9:30 a.m.

“It’s been a steady flow,” she said.

In past years, the event was larger in scale and included dog sledding and food from local vendors. However, organizers wanted to provide a better representation of what was offered in the winter on Quarry Road, so they did away with dog sledding. And Mathes said while the dogs did draw people in the past, the Jan. 28 event was still going well and getting people outside.

Waterville resident Michael Ansdell said he and his 7-year-old son go to Quarry Road regularly.

“It’s wonderful to have Quarry Road out here,” he said outside the welcome center. He said he and his son had fat-biked into the area, and they only live a little over a mile away. He said his family uses the area year-round.

“We’re so lucky in Waterville to have this,” he said.

Jeff Melanson, an organizer of the event and a Friends of Quarry Road board member, said overall the day had been great. Saturday’s event was the second of three providing free skiing to Quarry Road visitors. The first was held in mid-December, and the next one will be held Feb. 19. Melanson said a night skiing event will be held on Feb. 9, when the full moon is out.

“This worked out perfectly,” Melanson said of the event. He said a number of first-time visitors came, as well as people from as far away as Bangor.

Initially, sledding had been offered for the day as well, but event organizers had to take it off the table because of icy hill conditions. However, anyone who brought a sled and had the courage to race down the hill still was allowed to do so.

Aaron Brunelle and his wife, Mandy, took their two children to 300 Quarry Road on Saturday. Shortly before 1 p.m., he said, they already had been sledding and had been snowshoeing for three hours before they came back to the hill.

“We did the loop on snowshoes,” he said.

The Quarry Road Recreation Area consists of nearly 8 miles of trails and is open year-round. Even with the recent warm-up and rain of last week, the area can make its own snow. The park and trail system has grown since a small group of volunteers started efforts there in 2007. The area, at the end of Quarry Road off North Street, is managed by the Waterville Parks and Recreation Department with help from volunteers from the nonprofit group Friends of Quarry Road and is owned by the city of Waterville.

Ansdell, who had just arrived at the park with his son shortly after noon, praised all that it had to offer, saying they were “absolutely spoiled” by having access to a “world-class” place like Quarry Road.

“Whenever we’re here, we meet friends,” he said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

filed under: