Kurt Loewenkamp and Leah Wicander were better prepared Saturday to take on a run over unusual terrain.
The couple learned from the last time they ran the 5K race on icy Lake Mendota as part of the Frozen Assets festival. Wicander said the sun had come out and started melting snow and ice, causing her to fall multiple times. This time, the Madison East Siders sported Yaktrax — slip-on traction devices — over their running shoes.
And a chilly 10-degree temperature and overcast skies at the race’s start time offered preferential weather.
“I prefer cold-weather running, because it’s just too uncomfortable otherwise,” she said.
The Frozen Assets festival brought out first-timers and longtimers Saturday for activities and events on the icy surface of Lake Mendota right outside The Edgewater hotel. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the family-friendly event acts as a fundraiser for organizer Clean Lakes Alliance.
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“Our lakes are our biggest assets, and when they’re frozen, they are our largest parks,” said James Tye, executive director and founder of the nonprofit. “It’s really easy to access them and the idea is that Frozen Assets celebrates our lakes.”
More than 600 people turned out for the 5K walk and run that had participants racing along the snow-covered lake. Children tried their hand at hockey and sipped hot chocolate. Skydivers with Seven Hills Skydivers put on a show by dropping thousands of feet and gracefully landing on the lake’s surface. And colorful kites flown by people from across Wisconsin dotted the air above Madison’s largest lake.
Dale Bowden was among those with the Wisconsin Kiters Club putting on the display. While the large kites were flying well enough, the Wisconsin Rapids resident and regional director of a national kite flying association said the wind was too spotty to support “line laundry” — decorative elements hung from the line of a kite.
“I’ve got 12 cats. I’ve got a Minion. I’ve got a bunch of little dogs. I’ve got a couple fish,” Bowden said of his line laundry. “If the wind was good and steady, I could get everything out. But being spotty, we got to babysit the kites more.”
Regardless, the display was still impressive to Robin Ehrler and her husband, who regularly attended Frozen Assets with their children before they were grown.
“In the wintertime, there’s not a lot of things you can actually do outside,” the Sun Prairie resident said. “But we do love to come and watch the kites.”
Jessie Stankey and her two children were attending their first Frozen Assets after friends told them about the festival, which has raised about $1.3 million in the past decade for Clean Lakes Alliance to do water quality improvement work in the Yahara River watershed.
“We came out so we could look at the kites and watch all that and go ice skating,” Stankey said.
Her 8-year-old son, Julius, quickly added, “and play hockey,” followed by daughter Miriam, 4, chiming in with, “and meet up with my friends.”
Throughout the week, Clean Lakes Alliance hosted panel discussions and educational events about the ecological and economic benefits of healthy lakes.
“It’s really about science, education, fun and conservation,” Tye said of Frozen Assets.
When the lakes freeze over in the winter, Tye said anybody can enjoy them regardless of whether they own a boat or know how to swim.
“We’re a state Capitol, a university town and then we have the lakes,” he said. “That’s what makes us special.”
Gabe and Faith Zittlow were making a weekend out of the festival. The Green Bay couple was part of the group displaying the kites, which will be flown again from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. On Friday night, the kites were flown with strips of LED lights on them.
“We try to put as much color in the air as possible,” Gabe Zittlow said as he ice fished on Lake Mendota, finding no luck by late morning.