Newport Winter Festival returns with a full schedule after a 2-year hiatus. What to expect

NEWPORT – After two straight years of Covid cancellations Newport Winter Festival is back for its 32nd annual celebration, and the schedule from Feb. 17-26 is packed with events full of food, music and fun scattered all across the city.

For the past two years organizers made the difficult decision to cancel the festival after considering the health and safety of the community, but this year the events are back with a festive vengeance: among 150 events, competitions and experiences to choose from, community members attending this year’s festival can sip presidential cocktails with Litchfield Distilleries on President’s Day, catch Tom Petty and Jimmy Buffet tribute acts during the week and turn up the heat on the competition’s taste buds in the 26th annual chili cook-off.

“I enjoy seeing the town busy in the dead of winter…what we’re really proud of is the whole business community gets involved, enjoys themselves, and generates some revenue in the winter. In past years we’ve even sold out a lot of the hotels, in the middle of winter,” Festival organizer David Rosenberg said. “We’re very excited to bring the Winter Festival back after a two-year hiatus – it has a huge economic impact on the business community, and a psychological impact on everybody else with 10 days of nonstop fun during the doldrums of winter. Our theme is ‘Don’t hibernate, celebrate!’ and we have something for everybody, of every age.”

While the full schedule is available at here are some of the highlights:

Where can you get Newport Winter Festival bracelets, tickets?

Commemorative Souvenir Winter Festival bracelets provide discounts or free admission to all official Festival events, as well as discounts at over 50 local businesses and restaurants. The bracelets are $10, and the Winter Fest website said they could provide over $500 in savings. Tickets are also available for most of the events at the door with or without a bracelet, at a slightly higher price point for individuals without bracelets.

Grace Rojee - then 7 - admires her face paint at the Newport Winter Festival "Princess Party" held at Oceancliff in 2020.

Grace Rojee – then 7 – admires her face paint at the Newport Winter Festival “Princess Party” held at Oceancliff in 2020.

After Thursday, Feb. 2, the bracelets will be available at the following locations:- Bowen’s Wharf Pilot House, 45 America’s Cup/Bowen’s Wharf- Clements Marketplace, East Main Road, Portsmouth- Cookie Jar, Bowen’s Wharf, Newport- Hampton Inn & Suites, 317 West Main Road, Middletown- Holiday Inn Express, 855 West Main Road, Middletown- Homewood Suites, 348 West Main Road, Middletown- Hotel Viking, One Bellevue Avenue, Newport- Marriott Residence Inn, 325 West Main Road, Middletown- Newport Harbor Hotel, 49 America’s Cup Ave.- Newport Marriott, 25 America’s Cup Avenue, Newport- Shaw’s Supermarket, East Main Road, Middletown

Musical performances feature favorite children’s acts, oldies tribute bands

The musical performances this year are a bonanza for oldies fans. The Eagles Experience, which aims to be “the most authentic tribute show to the Eagles available today with a one-to-one lineup that reflects the Eagles during their heyday in the late 70s” will rock the Wyndham Newport Hotel at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17.

On Saturday, Feb. 18 Jimmy Buffet tribute act Changes in Latitudes is going to turn the Newport Harbor Island Resort into Margaritaville for a few hours. The doors open at 8:30 p.m., but it’s five o’clock somewhere. Listeners can expect beach balls and leis flying, dancing conga lines, and classics like “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Volcano.”

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For the more youthful musical connoisseur, the legendary Toe Jam Puppet Band will be offering some hands-on children’s entertainment (which grown-ups also tend to enjoy) on Sunday, Feb. 19 at the Newport Marriott. Starting at noon, kids and parents can sing and dance along with the band through a unique set list of original songs, shadow puppetry, storytelling and good old-fashioned fun. The show is $5 with a bracelet, $7 without one, and tickets will be available at the door.

Find the best burger to bite, chili to chow on, and steamy hot winter cocktail to sip on at Newport Winter Fest’s food competitions

Winter Festival will highlight local restaurants and caterers as they compete to see who makes the best chili in town at the 26th annual chili cook-off at Newport Harbor Island Resort. Hungry community members can pair their local chili tasting with some Sam Adams beer specials from 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18. To enter the chili competition, call 401-847-7666.

The Newport Winter Festival's 25th Chili Cook-Off took place in 2020 at the then-Gurney's Newport Resort & Marina.

The Newport Winter Festival’s 25th Chili Cook-Off took place in 2020 at the then-Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina.

The Newport Burger Bender is a simple “best burger” competition taking place from Friday, Feb. 17 through Sunday, Feb. 26, at participating restaurants throughout Newport and Bristol counties. Try one, some or all of the burgers on offer and then vote for your favorite by submitting a simple online voting form. Every voter is automatically entered to win one of Winter Fest’s daily giveaways throughout the Burger Bender contest, and the restaurant with the burger that gets the most votes will be crowned the winner. La Forge Casino Restaurant took home the top prize in 2020, and The Grill at Forty 1 North won the plant-based category.

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At the Red Parrot restaurant on Thames Street, judges will determine the Best Hot Drink in Newport. Local bars and restaurants will compete for the Festival Plaque, to be decided by guests who get free admissions and free samples of the contestants’ concoctions in addition to drink specials. To enter, contact the Red Parrot at 401-847-3140.

Newport Winter Festival’s schedule is jam-packed with children’s programming

Families are encouraged to bring their favorite local princes and princesses to dress up for a fun afternoon at the suitably regal OceanCliff Castle on Newport’s Ridge Road. The event is from 1–3 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Children will enjoy treats, stories, songs, dancing and crown-decorating in the ballroom.

On Saturday, Feb. 18, David Garrity’s “IllusionQuest” will bring an exciting magic and illusion act to the Newport Marriott at 6:30 p.m. Garrity and his magic team have been known to appear out of thin air, pass through solid objects, and even make someone from the audience float in the air! The family-oriented performance also features audience participation, situational comedy and is set to a custom-edited musical score.

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Winter Fest has a lot more children’s programming to offer, including a teddy bear story hour, a rainforest reptile show and a “mad science” show sure to wow kids as much as any magic trick. On the Winter Fest website’s calendar listing and featured events page, every event listed with a snowflake is a family-friendly event.

Polo on the beach returns

Second Beach in Middletown be the site as the Newport International Polo Series hosts “a low-impact, eco friendly exhibition” at 3 p.m. on Feb. 25 and 26.

With the St. George’s School chapel serving as a backdrop, ponies run neck-and-neck during the beach polo match Saturday at Sachuest Beach in Middletown. The event, which also was held Sunday, capped the 32nd annual Newport Winter Festival. [DAVE HANSEN PHOTO]

With the St. George’s School chapel serving as a backdrop, ponies run neck-and-neck during the beach polo match Saturday at Sachuest Beach in Middletown. The event, which also was held Sunday, capped the 32nd annual Newport Winter Festival. [DAVE HANSEN PHOTO]

The exhibition is free and open to all ages.

This article originally appeared on Newport Daily News: Newport Winter Festival returns Feb. 17-26: Bracelet, event info

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