In the absence of real snow for Bettendorf’s first Winter Carnival, the intricate paper snowflakes designed by Keith Bonnstetter proved to be a good substitute, judging by the dozens of visitors who flocked to his class Saturday.
“I’m OK with no snow,” Gregg Machetta of Bettendorf said with a laugh, as he watched daughter Laura, 6, cut out one of Bonnstetter’s snowflake designs at the Bettendorf Public Library. “To have had cross-country skiing would have been nice.”
But, added Gregg’s wife, Rhonda Machetta, “Look at the turnout!”
The library, one of four hubs for the city’s inaugural Winter Carnival, was full of activity as parents and their children visited stations on making bird feeders, creating winter art, face-painting, gardening and making rock candy.
A number of people interviewed said they planned to visit at least one of the other sites -- the Family Museum, Life Fitness Center and Frozen Landing ice rink -- during the four-hour fest.
Across the parking lot at the Family Museum, children enjoyed making an igloo from plastic milk jugs wrapped in clear tape and watched dry ice demonstrations. Even though the events were indoors, the free hot chocolate was a big hit.
Kim Kidwell, Family Museum director, estimated 800 people came through the museum Saturday, with similar numbers reported at the library, she said.
“Hopefully, if we do this again in the future, there will be snow,” she said. “But it was a good opportunity to give it a try and give something for families to do.”
Luis A. Cobos of East Moline watched his son, David, 5, make a bird feeder from a cardboard tube slathered in peanut butter and rolled in birdseed. Another son, Daniel, 11, sat nearby.
“It’s awesome,” Luis said of the Winter Carnival. “My wife (Carmen) is over at the museum.” Their daughter, Karla, also was part of the group.
Mark Fitkin, volunteer outreach coordinator at the library, said the bird feeding station was a popular stop.
“The feeder is fully biodegradable and you can just flop them right over a tree branch,” he said.
The Cobos family was later spotted at the Life Fitness Center, where Daniel shot hoops in the gym and David tried some indoor hockey using a pompom as a puck. Other indoor activities included snowman bowling and an indoor polar plunge.
“We like how the city of Bettendorf has invited everyone to be a part of their activities,” said Carmen Cobos, who noted the family also enjoys the city’s walking paths and parks.
Teresa Leedle, recreation coordinator for Bettendorf Parks and Recreation, estimated as many as 150 people had come to the Life Fitness Center Saturday with an hour still to go.
While the staff was prepared to host outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing, sledding and snow painting had there been snow, the indoor activities provided good exposure to city-owned sites like the Life Fitness Center. Packets of materials to make edible snowmen from marshmallows greeted those who entered the large gym.
Lisa Webb of Bettendorf watched as her children -- Myra, 10, Maisie, 8, and Emmett, 3 -- played pompom hockey.
She was “a little bit disappointed” in the lack of snow but said the idea of a winter festival was “great.”
“And I like it that it’s free,” she said.
Among the free services provided during the Winter Carnival were rides to the various sites on Bettendorf Transit buses.
Driver Karen Carsell-Laake cheerfully called out, “Is everybody ready?” as she prepared to leave the Family Museum for Frozen Landing.
There were about 10 passengers on that trip. Carsell-Laake said the number of people hopping on the free shuttle grew during the hours of the festival. As the parking lots at the library and museum filled up, it was a handy way to get around, with the bus making a continuous loop about every 15 minutes.
“It’s very odd in January that there’s no snow in Iowa,” said Matt Edwards of Bettendorf, whose daughter, Kendyl, 7, had just had a rainbow painted on her face at the library. “We would be sledding all day, no question about it, if there was snow.”
Edwards, the tennis coach at Bettendorf High School, also had daughter Stella, 3, in tow, as they contemplated their next activity.
He likes the idea of a winter festival.
“Bettendorf is one of the best places to raise kids,” he said. “These activities make people proud of their community.”
Mackenzie Schonberg, 9, worked diligently drawing a winter scene as his parents, Earl and Bridgett, looked on proudly.
The student at Riverdale Heights Elementary School says he likes to draw, particularly sports logos and basketball players.
Assisting the young artists was volunteer Adarsh Pillai, a junior at Pleasant Valley High School.
Bridgett said she wasn’t too disappointed in the lack of snow.
“It’s cold outside and warm inside,” she said with a smile.
The temperature hovered around 30 degrees as skaters eagerly waited for the Zamboni machine to finish clearing the ice at Frozen Landing, Bettendorf’s new ice rink that opened late last year.
Among the skaters were sisters Cara and Cenady Soenksen, of Goose Lake, Iowa, who made the 50-mile trip with their mom, Joy, to enjoy the new rink.
Joy smiled as she watched her daughters skate laps in the crisp air.
Steve Grimes, director of parks and recreation, said in an email that just over 600 people “took advantage of this new amenity the city is offering.”
“I would assume that as successful as the first Winter Carnival was, we will want to continue it in the future.”