This past weekend we hosted more than 575 kids plus their families for the 2012 TD Bank Bill Koch Festival and Bill Koch himself was here supporting all the kids!! Bill Koch had a passion for skiing early on. At 18 he became the first American to win a medal in Nordic skiing during international competition at the European Junior Championships. He then went on to make the 1976 Olympic team and became the first American to win an Olympic medal in Nordic skiing, placing 2nd in the 30 km. The Bill Koch Ski League, named in his honor, is an Eastern US cross-country ski program for children in grade 8 and under. It’s designed to encourage kids to ski and develop their talent. Here at the festival he signed autographs for hours, skied out on the trails to watch the competition and personally presented awards to those skiers who placed, congratulating every one who raced. Thanks Bill!
Saturday morning’s weather wasn’t so ideal but everyone made the best of it. Kicking off the festival was a parade showing costumes representing the theme-Blast from the Past to the Future on Skis! From the Berkshire Trails team dressed as cavemen….
From then on it was non stop racing. Saturday showcased relay racing with racers from 1st through 8th grade. The best part was seeing them finish into the stadium -just like in the Olympics and International races. Spectators watched as they came across the top of the tubing hill, down “Apple Orchard Hill” and around the pond. Cowbells rang out, the crowd cheered non-stop and Peter Graves, the well know Olympic cross country commentator, called their name as they passed the finish line. It must have been such an incredible feeling- I felt the excitement and I wasn’t even racing! There was plenty to do for those who weren’t racing or who were waiting to race. Kids were everywhere-on the tubing hill, playing on the obstacle course, discovering the fairy houses, conquering the snow banks and getting Bill Koch’s autograph!
The races and following awards ceremonies were split, grades 1-4 before noon and grades 5-8 in the afternoon. It was perfect – the younger kids didn’t have to wait. After the top 10 or 20 were awarded, all racers were brought in for photographs and recognition, no one was left out.
After racing concluded for the day, most attended the delicious pasta dinner held at the Town & Country Inn in Shelburne!
Sunday brought more smiling faces, individual races, 8th grade graduation and probably the most anticipated race of the entire weekend-the Lollipop Race. This event is designed as an introductory experience for young skiers prior to involvement in timed categories.
8th grade graduation was very special and exciting. Sue led the graduates up into the woods and out of sight.
Next thing we knew they were coming down the lower portion of the Auto Road in pairs skiing onto Great Glen Trails where their names were announced and where they received their certificate.
By the afternoon I couldn’t believe the festival was almost over, a few more races and and one more award ceremony and the 2012 Bill Koch Festival would come to a happy ending. This was the busiest most fun filled weekend we’ve had here in the winter. Seeing kids outside, making new friends, playing in the snow and the camaraderie in the races was truly amazing! I am so happy I was a part of this memorable event and hope to see some of the kids returning to enjoy our trails.
Fantastic job to all who were involved!!
Relive the festival!