The Camden Public Library’s Picker Room at 55 Main St. is scheduled to showcase the history of winter carnivals in Maine with an exhibit curated by the Maine Ski & Snowboard Museum.

The exhibit is scheduled to run from Tuesday, Jan. 4, through Sunday, Jan. 30.

The exhibit will be complemented by an online presentation at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, by Glenn Parkinson, the museum’s president and historian. Parkinson will discuss Maine’s winter carnivals from the 1920s to the present with a look through program books, newspaper articles, and film from the events.

The link to register for Parkinson’s program on Zoom can be found on the “What’s Happening” adult events calendar at librarycamden.org.

Cities and towns across Maine hosted elaborate winter carnivals held over several days, according to an event news release. At Portland’s 1924 winter carnival, people were invited to skate on the pond in Deering Oaks, “underneath the electric lights,” which were then a novelty. There was always a “ball” over which the King and Queen of the carnival presided.

Ski jumping dominated the sporting events. In 1924 the Portland Press Herald wrote, “When a crowd of over 5,000 people gather in one locality to witness an event, something must be going on. That’s how it was at the Western Promenade when ski jumpers of international fame lifted howling masses of humans into the heights of excitement and ecstasy.”

The Great Depression brought these citywide parties to a stop. Winter carnivals returned in the 1930s, but most had moved to northern Maine locations and featured grueling three-day, 100-mile-long ski races. There was still a queen and king at the ball, but the tone was much more athletic and serious. Children had cross country, downhill, and obstacle races on skis and other ways to compete and enjoy the outdoors.

In Camden, the 1930s brought the opening of the Snow Bowl and the Toboggan Chute. The winter carnival featured skiing, skating, horse racing, cars of the future and, lightning-fast toboggans on the chute at the Snow Bowl and the ice of Hosmer Pond. The tradition continues today with Camden’s Winterfest and the U.S. National Toboggan Championships.

The exhibit and Zoom program are part of the Maine Ski & Snowboard Museum’s Cocoa Chronicles series, sponsored by Oakhurst Dairy and the Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council.

For more information, call Julia Pierce, programs and events coordinator at the library, at 207-236-3440.

filed under: