MCCALL, Idaho — McCall is gearing up to celebrate 55 years of the McCall Winter Carnival. Every year, the small town of 3,000 in central Idaho welcomes a surge of more than 60,000 people during the ten-day winter festival.
This year's event runs Friday, Jan. 24 to Sunday, Feb. 2 and celebrates the theme "It's A Kids World."
"It's really asking the community and visitors to see through a child's eyes and look at the world with that innocence and joy," said McCall Winter Carnival Director Allison Wright. "Sometimes, it’s good to let go a little bit and just have some fun."
Carnival-goers can enjoy the traditional fireworks, a Mardi Gras Parade, and snow sculptures along with numerous other festivities like snowshoe golf, the Flash Point Snow Bike Race, McCall Starz on Ice, bingo and a “hairy-legs” contest.
Plus, organizers continue to expand the sled dog race introduced in 2018. As a Yukon Quest and Iditarod qualifier, the race features two distances, a 150-mile course and a 300-mile course and is now part of the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown. The Triple Crown includes the Idaho race, as well as Oregon's Eagle Cap Extreme and Montana's Race to the Sky.
New this year is a local talent showcase on the second Saturday, Feb. 1, where revelers will enjoy youth-to-adult organizations presenting their music and dancing skills. The main stage will host additional local live music by Innocent Man, Free Peoples, and High Pine Whiskey Yell.
"We're thrilled to be celebrating another year of the McCall Winter Carnival," McCall Area Chamber Marketing Director McKenzie Kraemer said. "The community has gathered together to create a memorable experience that keeps visitors coming back year after year."
The inspiration for the Winter Carnival dates back to 1924, when McCall created the Payette Lake Sports Carnival, named after the large, picturesque, glacier-carved, sandy-beached body of water that provides much of McCall's summer and fall allure. The Sports Carnival existed for several years before becoming an ice-breakup contest, which ended when gambling became illegal in 1941.
In 1965, the community rallied to bring back a winter festival to help promote the area's pristine skiing. This effort led to the first annual McCall Winter Carnival at Brundage Mountain Resort, which Ski Magazine has claimed is home to "the best powder in North America." The two-day event included slalom racing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and snowshoe and snowcat races.
Since then, the event has grown into the popular, ten-day festival that it is today. The Carnival continues to attract visitors and amateur and professional snow sculptors from throughout the world, and the American Bus Association named it one of the Top 100 Events in North America.
(Photo courtesy: Tony Harrison/McCall Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau)