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Our History

It has a Short, Yet Outstanding History

1987 Winterfest Poster
Humble Beginnings!

The first Winterfest was celebrated in 1985. It was the result of a small group of individuals from the Updowntowners of Syracuse, who committed months of time and energy to celebrate, rather than lament, winter in Syracuse and Onondaga County.

Community involvement and participation grew. It was the third year of celebration of Syracuse Winterfest Inc., and the Updowntowners of Syracuse, Inc. gained the full support of the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County, The Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce, WTVH-5, AM 570/WSYR, and Y94.

During the 1987-88 season, Syracuse Winterfest achieved New York State’s prestigious title of “Winter Festival Capital”. Due to public support and enthusiasm, Winterfest expanded from a weekend festival to its present two weeks.[/tab]

[tab] Local and national companies found that the celebrating Syracusans were an attractive target market. They started underwriting the costs of operating Winterfest as well as sponsoring many events. Downtown Syracuse merchants and restaurants became actively involved with the festivities. People found that there were lots of ways to participate in Winterfest.

More than 200,000 people attended Winterfest activities in 1989. The Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau reported that tourists joined with the residents of Onondaga County to celebrate winter. The list of corporate sponsors grew to a record level. The number of volunteers increased dramatically.

The history of Winterfest is checkered with warm days and no snow, as well as frigid weekends with snow and subzero temperatures. In 1990 the Winterfest Committee made the event “weather- proof” by creating winter sculptures without snow and more indoor activities. Although a two weekend event, sponsors, volunteers and the public enjoyed the biggest Winterfest to date.[/tab]

[tab]Winterfest in 2000 was expanded to a ten day event. In 2002 it was increased to an eleven day event to include a semi- formal ball to welcome the newest Winterfest mascot “Snow Ball”. The “Snow Ball” proved to be an elegant combination of dancing and dining. This event was held in the grand ballroom of the Hotel Syracuse with entertainment provided by local musicians.

The New York Special Olympics joined the Syracuse Winterfest celebration in 2002 adding numerous events.

Winterfest 2003 had grown to over 100 events in 10 days. In 2004 ,Valentine’s Day was included into the events schedule allowing twelve days for the Winterfest celebration and over 150 events.[/tab]

[tab]The theme for 2005 was “There’s SNOW Place Like Central New York”. Winterfest presented over 150 events with increased family and children’s activities added along with featuring a new designation to the Syracuse area called “Little Italy” in the first weekend. Winterfest also joined with North Syracuse Junior High School to break a Guinness World Record for the most snow angels . We needed 1,792+1 to break the record, but rounded up 666 citizens for the attempt.

Winterfest 2006 and 2007 was an 11-day event, with the addition of seven wine tasting evenings along with a weekend live music events called Winterfest Jam at five locations for five dollars.

Winterfest 2008 had events running for 14 days, with some pre-Winterfest events. The newest events were multi-age Wii competitions and a new food event called the “Burger Bounce”.[/tab]

[tab]Winterfest 2010 we celebrated our 25 anniversary and included the outdoor hockey game at the State Fair grounds in our schedule along with many new ones.

Winterfest 2012 -2014 we had Ice Castle Built in Clinton Square and with several new events.[/tab]

Wiinterfest 2015 we added Corn-Hole Evevt.

Winterfest 2020 will be  great too.   “Syracuse’s Coolest Tradition”

Syracuse Winterfest 2021 was cancel due to COVID-19

This year Winterfest theme is: “Syracuse Winterfest RE-BOOT” bring back all the fun events to Syracuse in February 17th- 27th, 2022.

Winterfest, the celebration of snow, continues to be the grandest attraction in Central New York during the winter months. It’s been the largest event of its kind in the northeast United States. For further information, contact Bill Cooper at (315) 243-2500 (c)or Email:

Syracuse Winterfest 2022 Round-up 

Friday, February 4, 2022 11:00 AM by Visit Syracuse Staff 


Winterfest is coming to Syracuse February 17th-27th and we are more than excited to celebrate one of our favorite seasons! Winterfest is the perfect excuse to go outside and join in on this celebration of all things winter. From culinary delights, cocktail mix-offs, ice sculptures, fireworks and so much more- this is a festival you do not want to miss! Here’s what we recommend checking out for optimum wintry fun.  


Food, food, and more food! 

Syracusans are really passionate about their food, seriously, ask us what our “must-try’s” are and you’ll get a page long list. The popular annual Culinary Cruise will return this year letting participants sample culinary specialties from key Downtown restaurants, the free Winterfest Express will shuttle you from spot to spot! After the event vote on your favorite treats and head to Shaughnessy’s Irish Pub to see who won. The competitive fun doesn’t stop there, a Sandwich Stroll and Wing Walk will also be happening where you can dine on the best of each category and choose your favorite. Looking for something to warm you up more instead? A chili cook-off and chowder cook-off will be happening for some great winter dining!  





Indoor and outdoor events 

We get it, Syracuse winters are cold. Bundle up and enjoy all of the outside fun or stick to the variety of fun indoor options if that’s your style. Stroll museums or catch a show during Winterfest at venues, such as, The Everson Musuem of Art and Syracuse Stage. We also recommend stopping by one of our great restaurants, grab a drink or even bring the kids to fun events with Checkers the Inventor at the Marriott located in the heart of downtown. Head outside of downtown and take advantage of free ice skating the NYS Fairgrounds Coliseum (must bring your own skates). 





Mix-off Madness 

Do you love a good cocktail? Being one of the best bar cities in the United States is something we don’t take lightly. Mix-off competitions include: Cosmopolitans, Bloody Marys, Sangrias, Margaritas and Martinis! Ticket holders can sample each boozy creation and vote on their favorite in each category. Watch as mixologists from your favorite bars go head-to-head to create the best cocktail. 




Activities and Entertainment 

Kick-off Winterfest fun with a party and musical talent Hard Promises, at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown. Test your skill with the Cornhole Tournament at Maxwells, watch magic acts at the Marriott, view live ice carving demos and so much more throughout the next couple of weekends! There are so many fun activities to partake in during Winterfest. There’s even a Human Dogsled Race to benefit Helping Hounds at the Inner Harbor, alongside food trucks, family art classes and more! Or test out your sleuth skills at following clues to find a medallion hidden someplace in Onondaga County to win $2,000 during the 33rd Annual Treasure Hunt. Once it gets dark the sky lights up with a Fireworks display at the Inner Harbor on Friday, February the 18th and 27th! 




Feb 20 

Friday nights Valentine’s Day fireworks at the syrinnerharbor set off the celebration of Winterfest with a “BANG”! What a way to make Valentine’s Day extra special with waterfront fireworks! What did you guys think of them?! ⤵️⤵️⤵️ . . . Make sure you don’t miss this Sunday’s February 23rd Waterfront Firework show sponsored by CNY Diagnostic Imaging Associates! Starting at 6:30pm! Thank you Majestic Fireworks, Inc for a great show! #syracuse #waterfront #syracusewaterfront #valentines #valentinesday #love #winterfest #syracusewinter #syracusewinterfest #fireworks #realestate #syrinnerharbor #upstateny 

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For more information on the Winterfest fun click here. This is an event not to miss, celebrate the season that loves Syracuse so much and get down in the Official Home of Winter! 

Syracuse Winterfest
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