February 15, 2017 (Bethel, ME) – The largest kids’ cross country ski festival in the United States, The New England Bill Koch League Festival, will be hosted by The Bethel Outing Club at Gould Academy in Bethel, Maine during the weekend of March 4 and 5, 2017. The New England Bill Koch League Festival, also known as the NEBKL Festival is the marquee event of the New England Nordic Ski Association’s (NENSA) Bill Koch Youth Ski League and attracts pre-school through eighth grade participants from across New England, the Northeast and Canadian provinces.
The Festival carries the name of America’s only Olympic cross country medalist, Bill Koch. In 1976 Koch, from Putney, Vermont, won a silver medal at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Following this achievement, the national nordic ski program for youth was renamed in his honor, and the Bill Koch League (BKL) has continued throughout the Northeast for decades, introducing youth to the joys of cross country skiing in BKL Clubs, mostly led by parents and volunteers. Bill Koch himself will be at the Festival, supporting and encouraging all the young skiers.
The Festival rotates annually through the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont. Last year’s Festival was held at The Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire, who also hosted in 2012.
Festivities will start up on Saturday with the parade of participants, grouped by the geographic district they represent. With a theme of “Protect Our Winters”, or POW, there are sure to be superheros and heroines of snow, whether that’s a favorite comic book hero or their favorite “hero on snow” such as Andy Newell or Sophie Caldwell. The parade will start the festival with heros, heroines and protectors of winter marching around the outside of the field house on the Gould Academy campus. Saturday’s on-snow events include two-person relay races by grade levels using skate technique, and a variety of Nordic Adventure non-timed activities such as a sledding hill, terrain park, parade sign making, snowflake crafts, Maine Adaptive sit-ski demos, Fat biking, a Biathlon demo, and a Natural History Trail along the Mini-Marathon Course to the Yurt!
Saturday evening events include a smoked pulled pork, chicken or tempeh dinner and all the fixings held at Gould Academy. During dinner, Bill Koch will be signing autographs while his movie, The Bill Koch XC Experience plays in the background, followed by an educational presentation by POW, the non-profit environmental organization committed to bringing an awareness of climate change to snow sports.
The fun continues on Sunday with individual interval-start races of 1 to 4 kilometers in length, depending on grade level. The Lollipop Race for novice skiers in 2nd grade and younger routinely brings the most smiles to observers as these skiers ski with a parent, wave to fans and gleefully dash to cross the line and receive their lollipop. Eighth graders, in their final year of eligibility for the BKL Festival, have a graduation ceremony led by Bill Koch with a fun skiing challenge and public recognition. Awards ceremonies throughout the weekend will recognize outstanding performances in the races.
The Bethel Outing Club is playing a significant role as the host club with their many volunteers and organizers, and Gould Academy is the host site and generous sponsor of the event. The Bethel Village Trails and Mahoosuc Pathways are providing free skiing on the Bethel Village Trail system for each participant and The Bethel Inn Resort is giving discounted rates for festival goers and donating rooms for race committee staff.
As associate sponsors of NENSA, L.L. Bean and Swix are sponsors of the event. The larger sponsors of the NEBKL Festival are Sport Thoma, Maine Ski Lodging Co, Doug Zinchuk Roofing and Sunday River Ski Club. Other Sponsors include Norway Savings Bank, Bancroft Contracting, Rite Aid Pharmacy, Holidea House, Akers Ski, and True North Adventureware. Every registered skier will receive a L.L. Bean goodie bag that includes items donated by Clif bar, SkiErg, Gould Academy, TrueNorth Adventureware, and the Bethel Outing Club. Additional sponsors are still being sought for this huge event, as are volunteers who will make this weekend a fun and memorable experience for the hundreds of kids and their families coming to the area.
Pre-registration for participation in the New England BKL Festival is required, more information and the link to skireg is found through the event’s website: http://bklfestival2017.com. NENSA membership required for registration. For more information and to get involved, contact Wade Kavanaugh and Tracyn Thayer, Event Directors via email: [email protected]
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