By Derek Johnson
Special to the Alpine Mountaineer
It was a beautiful sunny day on Oct. 7 when the annual Pine Cone Festival was held in the sprawling and picturesque pine forest of the Rim Nordic Ski Area.
Upon entry, guests were greeted by an impressive lineup of about a half dozen first responder vehicles from a variety of firefighting agencies, displayed on either side of the makeshift promenade. Booths were spread out along a half-mile loop trail on a gentle slope. Fire prevention mascots Cheekers the Squirrel, Smokey Bear and Captain Cal mingled with the crowd and greeted delighted children. Temperatures were in the high 70s without a cloud in the sky.
The festivities were kicked off at 9:45 a.m. with a procession and flag ceremony by the Mountain Fifes & Drums. Following opening remarks by host Laura Dyberg, State Assemblyman (and Festival VIP) Tom Lackey was honored with a plaque commemorating his “enthusiastic support for first responder and mountain communities.”
Lackey spoke briefly, noting the beauty of the local landscape and commending the communities’ resolve in the face of the disastrous snowstorms earlier this year. He also spoke about his activities in the legislature to help the mountain area.
“We secured a million dollars in funding for snow removal equipment for the mountain in the event of another big storm,” Lackey said, which was met with enthusiastic applause.
Following the ceremonies and continuing throughout the day, the fine musicians of the Little Bear Valley Blues provided some mellow interpretations of classic soft rock tunes for attendees to enjoy as they perused the stalls.
Throughout the day, raffle drawings were held, with the winners posted on a whiteboard along the entry thoroughfare.
Rim High School students volunteered at various places in the festival, including administration of the Pine Cone Olympics – various pine cone-related competitions like distance tosses and archery – and the newly designated kids area, “Camp Cheekers.”
Camp Cheekers included a bounce house, a giant Connect-Four set, face painting, bag decorating and watercolor decorating of small wooden ornaments depicting squirrels and acorns. Parents were able to relax at tables under canopies while their children tired themselves out in the bounce house.
“Any time my kids see a bounce house, they gotta go in,” said one Dad.
In the afternoon, the winning pine cones were announced.
In the longest cone category, measuring 17 ½ inches was Rob Meyers’ winning sugar pine cone submission. The award for heaviest cone went to Nicole M. Her Coulter pine cone weighed in at 4 pounds 1.2 ounces; it was reportedly picked up in Deer Lodge Park.
This year’s prize package included a $719 season pass to Snow Valley, Bear Mountain & Snow Summit; $250 in lodging at Pine Rose Cabins; $100 for cross country skiing or snowshoeing at Rim Nordic; $100 gift certificate to Jensen’s; and a $50 gift certificate to The Grill. In total, the prize package was valued at $1,219.