The first carnival took place in 1924. It began with the largest train ever to enter McCall. It had 248 people on board and one of them was Idaho's govornor C. Moore. The very first carnival was called, "Payette Lakes Sports Carnival. It lasted three days. One of the biggest events was the dog sled races. They also had ski joring, which is when a skier is pulled by a horse! They had toboggan races and raced homemade snowmobiles on the frozen, snow-covered lake. These 'snowmobiles' were actually vehicles set on steel runners and driven by an airplane engine and propeller. Eventually, the carnival turned into an "ice break-up contest." People would buy tickets and guess what day, hour and minute the ice would break up on the lake. The person guessing the closest, won a prize. The last contest was in 1941 at what time gambling had become illegal. In 1965, the "Winter Carnival" began again and has continued to this day.
McCall can get up to 400 inches (33.3 feet) of snow each winter. One of the coolest things about the Winter Carnival these days are the fantastic ice sculptures. They might be animals, disney characters, Christmas or winter scenes. Whatever they are, they have amazing detail and are very beautiful!
They are on nearly every corner and in front of nearly every store and shop. The sculptors work hard shaping the snow and pouring on water to maintain the icy surface. Awards are given for what judges say are the best.
The town of McCall is beautiful with trees and snow. It is right on the Payette Lake. McCall has a population of 2,554. It is about 2 1/2 hours from our house on clear roads.
In January of this year, my family went to McCall. We stayed January 25-26. We stayed at the Western Mountain Lodge. We had a lot of fun! We looked at all kinds of sculptures, and since we were there a few days before the carnival began, we got to watch them working. There were bears, trains, trees and all kinds of other stuff all made out of snow!
We were wondering why there were dragons, so we did some research and found out about the legend of "Sharlie." Some people say that they have seen a huge dragon, or sea creature and think it lives somewhere in the lake. Other people say there is no such thing and that it must be a log, a giant sturgeon, or even a herd of moose crossing the lake.
This year, McCall is 100 years old, so we saw lots of sculptures with the number 100 as well.
McCall is a beautiful little town. It was founded in 1911 by Tom McCall. There was an article in the newspaper while we were there that talked about McCall's history. Tom McCall's daughter was McCall, Idaho's first schoolteacher. His son later became the first forest ranger. They were alone when they first came to McCall. They traded with an earlier setter named Denver, his homestead for their best harness, team and wagon. Someone asked Louisa, Tom's wife is she was lonely or discouraged in those hard early years and she said, "No, I had my family."
We also went sledding at Bear Park while we were there. The sledding hill ends in the lake, but don't worry. The lake freezes over every winter.