LOWELL -- The city's 17th annual WinterFest -- Friday, Feb. 24, and Saturday, Feb. 25 -- will be a winter wonderland for the entire family to enjoy, complete with fun activities, musical performances and tons of local food vendors. Tobi Marx, director of the city's Cultural Affairs & Special Events Office, said the event usually garners 10,000 to 15,000 people, depending on the weather.

"What we're really doing this year is going back to the basics," Marx said. "We're moving a lot of the activity on Lucy Larcom Park, but really focusing on a magical winter wonderland, with light shows and magicians and stuff like that."

Marx added that this year's fun is also being extended to JFK Plaza, which has not been done over the past several years.

Western Education
Western Education
Some favorites will be returning, like the 31-foot inflatable slide dubbed Snowzilla and the WinterFest Carousel.

Marx said the two-day event is the perfect way to have fun and take a break from shoveling the many inches of snow the Lowell area has received.

"Come downtown, meet your friends and family, and have a good time while embracing winter," Marx said. "It's a really, really great event for the entire family."

General admission to the festival is free.

Here are a few things to look forward to at WinterFest. (See ad on Page S5.)

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Family Fun Zone

Every year, the Lowell High School offers kid-friendly activities. This year's fun will be held in the cafeteria Saturday, Feb.


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25, from noon to 4 p.m. There will be a model railroad display, a craft area and live entertainment from Tricia Boscho & Friends.

Ice Rink

For the first time, the JFK RiverRink will be open for outdoor ice skating as part of the city's WinterFest. Whether you bring your own skates or rent some, the experience is free during the opening hours of WinterFest. Between 30 and 40 people will be allowed on the rink at one time. Surrounding the rink, attendees can enjoy an outdoor seating area, local food and light shows.

Tyler Boisvert, 4, and his sister, Cassandra St. Hilaire, 5, of Lowell play with giant dominoes at Lowell High School during the 2015 WinterFest.
Tyler Boisvert, 4, and his sister, Cassandra St. Hilaire, 5, of Lowell play with giant dominoes at Lowell High School during the 2015 WinterFest.

Music

Six musical performances are scheduled for the two-day festival, so everyone's sure to find one they like. Catch the live music Friday, Feb. 24, from 6 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 25, from 5 to 8 p.m. One of the musical acts is the Joshua Tree Band, a U2 tribute group. The group has been participating in WinterFest for years. Expect to hear your favorite U2 hits, like "Sunday Bloody Sunday," and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

"We just try to do this classic music and do it justice and have people come away from it and say, 'Wow, they really sound like the band,'" said vocalist and guitarist Mike Golarz.

Other bands include Western Education, Flight of Fire, Harry Borsh, The Shirts and Shoes, and Life Got Busy.

Abbigail Baxter, 8, of Dracut, works on a sand-art necklace during the 2015 WinterFest.
Abbigail Baxter, 8, of Dracut, works on a sand-art necklace during the 2015 WinterFest.

All You Can Eat Chocolate Festival

That pretty much says it all, but if you have a sweet tooth (and, really, who doesn't?), are a chocolate lover and have $7 to spare, the Chocolate Festival at St. Anne's Episcopal Church is the event for you.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Saturday, Feb. 25, attendees can eat as much chocolate as they want, for the $7 entry fee, at the church, located at 8 Kirk St.

Minister of Music Beth Parsons is organizing the event, which is in its seventh year.

"Most of the chocolate is made by our parishioners. This is a whole entire parish project," Parsons said. "We put out trays of samples, from truffles to bark to white chocolate dissolved in caramel. If you can think of it, it's probably there.

Ava Reis, then 8, and her brother, Luke, then 3, of Lowell play with giant Scrabble pieces at Lowell High School during the 2015 WinterFest.
Ava Reis, then 8, and her brother, Luke, then 3, of Lowell play with giant Scrabble pieces at Lowell High School during the 2015 WinterFest.
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In addition to the tasty treats, there will also be raffle prizes and competition among local businesses.

"All of the money that we raise from the Chocolate Festival goes to support St. Anne's ministry and its outreach and projects in the church," Parsons said. "It brings our parish together, and it's just a great time."

Tickets will be available for purchase at the door. Parsons suggests people arrive earlier rather than later.

North Bowl Soup Competition

Local eateries will be serving up their best soups and chowders, hoping to win this competition on Saturday, Feb. 25. The event will run from noon to 3 p.m., at the Masonic Center on Arcand Drive, where attendees will have an opportunity to vote for their favorites.

Priscille Godfroy of Dracut fills a tray of  Renee s Surprise  during the 2015 Chocolate Festival.
Priscille Godfroy of Dracut fills a tray of Renee s Surprise during the 2015 Chocolate Festival.
 Marx said it's "a great and tasty event."

Last year, Tewksbury's Wamesit Lanes snagged first place for its Chicken Pot Pie Soup.

This year participating restaurants are: 110 Grill, Boys and Girls Club of Lowell, Eggroll Cafe, Firewater Cafe/Wamesit Lanes, Fuse Bistro, Gormley's Cafe, Life Alive, Mill City BBQ, Nolo @ Stonehedge Inn, Sweet Lydia's and the UMass Inn & Conference Center.

Tickets are $5 each and are available the day of the event.

Annual MicroBrew Showcase

This the sixth annual MicroBrew Showcase, where beer enthusiasts can travel between The Lodge on JFK Plaza and The Cabin on Lucy Larcom Park and enjoy 24 tasting stations. The stations will be open Friday, Feb. 24, from 6 to 9 p.m.

"It's really, really incredible because we have about 28 breweries all over Massachusetts and some outside Massachusetts," Marx said. "You can travel and walk between Lucy Larcom Park and JFK Plaza."

Participating breweries include Wachusett Brewing Company, Cape Ann Brewing Co., Allagash Brewing Company and St. Killian Importing Co.

The Microbrew CraftBeer Showcase costs $30 in advance or $35 the day of the event, and does not include the cost of food. To purchase presale tickets before Feb. 24, visit www.lowellwinterfest.com/tickets.

For more information on the Lowell Winterfest attractions, visit www.lowellwinterfest.com.

Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter and Tout @KoriTuitt.