Today marks the start of the 47th Stowe Winter Carnival beginning with ice carving and ending on Sunday with Snow Volleyball. As I have written before, the original Stowe Winter Carnival was in 1921, however the modern version dates back to 1975.
Leading up to 1975 Stowe hadn’t had a Winter Carnival for quite a few years. Much like in 1921 the town of Stowe needed something to energize it. Enter Gar Anderson! Gar decided the town needed a Winter Carnival, but not just any Winter Carnival. Gar helped organize a 10 day extravaganza with everything “from a ham-and-bean dinner at the Community Church to a polo demonstration at an indoor stable!”
Gar wanted a signature event for the carnival, an event that would draw national attention. He landed both the men’s and women’s Professional Freestyle Associates tours. There would be mogul, aerial, and ballet competitions with all the big names in freestyle. The men’s tour was sponsored by Midas Mufflers and the women’s tour by Colgate. So the event earned the unwieldy title of the Stowe Midas Ski America Colgate National Freestyle Championships!
Despite the elongated title, the event did attract national media. That included the ABC Wide World of Sports which provided TV coverage with Donna De Verona, Bud Palmer, and Billy Kidd providing the play-by-play. And since ABC was footing the bill for bringing in Billy Kidd, Gar added a Billy Kidd day to the carnival to honor Stowe’s most recognized celebrity.
The mogul competition was held on the Upper National with natural snow, skier-created bumps. I say that to distinguish between today’s manicured, artificially-created mogul courses and the 1975 National. And of course, the weather was much like this past weekend: 10 below zero with a brisk wind! I was there to watch the competition and got a kick out of the competitors, particularly those from the west, huddling in the Octagon to stay warm. But in the true spirit of freestyle, when their number was called, they peeled off the extra layers and launched themselves down the National to the music blaring from the huge Ski America speakers. I did notice that some of the westerners had some problems with the eastern ice, I mean packed powder.
The aerial event was held the next day and in true Vermont style, the weather was sunny and spring-like. And since they were held at Spruce, both the competitors and spectators got to bask in the warmth! Those westerners I mentioned huddling in the Octagon may have even thawed out!
The ballet event was held on the third day and of course, it rained! I did not attend either the aerials or ballet so don’t have a firsthand report. But an article in SKI magazine highlighted that the rain turned to freezing rain resulting in a three hour traffic jam getting out of the Spruce parking lot!
The 1975 winter carnival was a success and Gar would go on to lead the winter carnival for quite a few years.
Carol Van Dyke had the answer that Gar Anderson was the driving force behind that 1975 Winter Carnival. She remembers well in the 1980s and 90s when Gar would set off the Winter Carnival fireworks behind the Memorial building, since they had a great view from their house. Gar loved fireworks!
Gar Anderson passed away on December 30th. He leaves a legacy of many contributions to Stowe.
In 1969 he converted a horse barn into the Rusty Nail nightclub which was located where the Gale Farm Complex is today. He acquired top level bands from around New England and quickly established it as the place to go for the après-après-ski crowd.
He also developed the movie theater in the Stowe Center complex where you could watch the movie from the bar. While the current theater in Stowe sort of still honors that approach, there was an advantage to watching from an actual bar where you could order a second round.
Charlie Burnham shared a story of when the Stowe Community Church congregation felt “the earth move” one Sunday morning. Gar had the building evacuated and determined the main support beams for the floor had cracked. Gar immediately had an engineer study the situation and then led a project to install new steel “I” beams to support the floor for several more centuries.
Then there’s all the work he did in the Sterling Falls Gorge area where the Anderson family lived. In his later years he was a one man construction crew building trails. Those trails are now used extensively in both summer and winter. Another lasting contribution from Gar.
Gar was buried in the family lot in Sterling Valley. A full celebration of his life will be scheduled at a later date. Rest in power, Gar!