Economic Development Tourism Historic Preservation
Calhoun County, Iowa

    Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean we can’t play outside here in Calhoun County. If you think there’s nothing exciting to do here in the winter, you haven’t been to TWINterfest at Twin Lakes, which offers everything from thrilling ice oval races (with motorcycles, ATVs and UTVs) to relaxing snow yoga (“snowga”) to the polar plunge, where you can literally jump in the lake!

   “People get stir-crazy in the winter,” said Bill Stephenson, who helps organize TWINterfest, which is held the first Saturday in February. “A bunch of us started brainstorming ideas that could offer fun, family-friendly, outdoor activities that adults and kids can enjoy.”

   Everything came together in February 2022 for the first TWINterfest at Twin Lakes. “We had no idea how many people would show up, but we had perfect weather that day,” said Stephenson, who noted that a calm, sunny, 25-degree-day is ideal. “Participation was great.” 

   Among the most popular spectacles were the ice oval races with motorcycles, ATVs and UTVs racing on the lake. “It’s amazing to watch motorcycles go sideways as they roar around the oval,” said Stephenson, who noted the lake ice is frozen solid a foot deep or more this time of year. 

   To build on the success of TWINterfest 2022, the 2023 event (slated for Saturday, Feb. 4) is bringing back many popular events, along with new activities. TWINterfest promises a full day of fun for all ages, starting with the ice fishing tournament in 8 a.m., and ending with a bonfire (fueled by used Christmas trees), fireworks and live music that evening. 

   The 2023 events include: 
•    Ice fishing tournament (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a $500 prize fund for categories including largest walleye and largest bass)
•    Pancake breakfast 
•    ATV-UTV poker run
•    Ice oval races with motorcycles, ATVs and UTVs racing on the lake 
•    Fun run & walk 
•    FeedShack BBQ catering food truck
•    Tobogganing 
•    Ice skating 
•    Broomball
•    Campfire s’mores and corn dogs
•    Barrel rides
•    Ice fishing clinic
•    Ice bowling 
•    Pizza
•    Kite exhibition 
•    Free ice fishing clinic 
•    Wine slushies truck (at Traditions store/restaurant) 
•    Snow yoga “snowga” 
•    Polar plunge on the north end of the lake
•    Dash through the snow fun run & walk with two routes (one from the state park to TLBC, and the second from the marina to TLBC)
•    Tailgating on the ice 
•    Closing ceremony bonfire (6 to 6:30 p.m.)
•    Fireworks on the ice (6:45 to 7 p.m.)
•    Live music in a tent near Traditions (7 p.m. to 11 p.m.)

   Various groups are in charge of their own activities during TWINterfest, Stephenson noted. Calhoun County Conservation, for example, will coordinate the ice fishing clinic, which runs from noon to 2 p.m. 
In the case of inclement weather, the alternate date for TWINterfest 2023 is Feb. 11. “We have a full schedule this year,” Stephenson said. “For very little money, you can bring the family and have lots of fun.” 



Inaugural TWINterfest attracted hundreds of people 
   A winter bonfire at Twin Lakes about five years ago helped spark the idea that led to TWINterfest, Stephenson said. Locals also took note of the success of the University of Okoboji Winter Games in northwest Iowa, which are held in during the last full weekend of January. 

   The Winter Games began in 1981 as a small broomball tournament on the frozen waters at the fish hatchery. Today, the Winter Games include a wide array of outdoor activities that attract 40,000+ visitors from more than 22 states, as well as visitors from all over the globe.

    As people started evaluating the possibilities for a smaller-scale, family-friendly, winter event at Twin Lakes, early supporters included Mike Murphy. He owns Traditions at The Lil’ Store, which is open from late spring into fall, so people can grab a bite to eat at the restaurant, fuel up at the dock while boating, or pick up items in the convenience store. “Even though Traditions isn’t open in the winter, Mike is a good supporter of the community and is happy to open Traditions for TWINterfest,” Stephenson said.
    Leaders at the Twin Lakes Bible Camp (TLBC) and other groups also got on board with TWINterfest. “TLBC is a not only a Bible camp, but an action sports camp that offers wake boarding, paintball, ziplines and other activities each summer,” Stephenson said. “The camp provides a great place for winter activities, too.”  

   During the 2022 TWINterfest, TLBC sold $5 wristbands that offered guests access to toboggan slide rides, ice skating, broomball games, fire pits and s’mores kits for purchase, a BBQ lunch and concessions, warm-up stations with hot chocolate, hot cider, and cookies available for purchase, barrel sleigh rides, ice bowling on the lake and more. (These activities will be offered again at TWINterfest 2023.)

   “Around 200 people enjoyed the activities at TLBC in 2022,” said Stephenson, who added that nearly 180 people also participated in the TWINterfest poker run that year.  

     TLBC wasn’t the only organization that raised money for a good cause during the inaugural TWINterfest. The polar plunge at TWINterfest 2022 made a splash —literally — to support local fire departments. More than 20 people jumped into the icy water at Twin Lakes for the fundraiser, which raised more than $3,000. 

Giving back to the community 
    To keep the momentum going, TWINterfest coordinators have been selling TWINterfest merchandise, from hats to sweatshirts, to cover necessities like insurance that are part of hosting an event like this. 

    TWINterfest leaders have also hit on a novel fundraiser to raise money for summer and winter fireworks at Twin Lakes. They sell tickets from January through mid-March for the Fireworks Fund Auto Plunge. 
“We place a stripped-down, old car on the ice in the southeast corner of the lake,” Stephenson said. “If you guess the correct hour and minute when a clock in the car stops when the car falls through the melting ice, you can win $750.” 

   TWINterfest is completely volunteer driven and is geared toward fundraising for local groups, Stephenson said. “There’s such a good network of people around Twin Lakes. TWINterfest is all about providing winter entertainment and giving back to the community.” 

     For the latest updates on TWINterfest, visit with the TWINterfest Facebook page, or go to

written by Darcy Maulsby

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