NEWPORT — A bottle of pure vanilla extract next to a few blocks of ice sits waiting on Lake Memphremagog. Get it? Vanilla Ice.
It’s a question as old as the lake herself. Every spring we muse over the age-old question, “when do you think the ice will go out?”
Lake Memphremagog is deep, with ice as thick as 30 inches some winters, but Vermonters never tire watching for any indicative sign of the changing season.
To celebrate this time-honored tradition, and to make things a little more interesting while we wait, Newport Parks & Recreation runs the annual contest for residents and visitors on Lake Memphremagog.
Each year a weighted mascot is placed in the bay at Gardner Memorial Park attached to a time clock.
The mascot for this year’s “ICE OUT” content is the work of Newport Parks foreman Mac McKenny.
The facade can be seen from the Causeway bridge and stands steadfast through snowstorms, wind and rain until the ice beneath finally gives way to the early warmth of spring.
When the mascot drops, the Ice Out clock stops recording the official moment that the ice is out in Newport. People keep pretty close tabs on the facade as they pass the Causeway.
“It gives the community something to look for on the lake and they get a kick out of it,” Jessica Booth, Director of Parks & Recreation for the City of Newport, said.
Booth and McKenny say they’re always inundated with calls and emails as soon as the mascot goes under.
“Checking the clock throughout the day is part of the fun while we’re working around Gardner park,” said McKenny, who is in charge of making the official call for ice-out time. “But if the ice goes out on the weekend or in the evening when we’re not around, there’s plenty of people ready to report in.”
When the ice finally does go out on Lake Memphremagog, the news is always welcome to one lucky contestant who entered the closest prediction in the annual contest.
The nearest prediction, without going past, to the actual date and time wins 50 percent of the contest pool. The pool usually totals about $500, depending on ticket sales.
The other half of Ice Out proceeds will benefit the Gardner Memorial Park Playground & Splashpad Project this year.
Memphremagog Ice Out tickets can be purchased at Little G’s Deli, Hoagies, Jimmy Kwik, Westside Market, East Main General or the Parks & Recreation office.
Predictions can be submitted online too at NewportRecreation.org/ICEOUT.
Deadline to submit your guess is Monday, April 1, 2019, or when the ice goes out, whichever comes first.
For more information, call Newport Parks & Recreation at 802-334-6345.