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McCall Winter Carnival aims to condense from 10 days to one weekend

The carnival has been a 10-day event since the 1980's. However, the 1924 Payette Winter Games inspired the carnival we know today as a weekend event itself.

MCCALL, Idaho — The 2023 McCall Winter Carnival starts Friday, Jan. 27, and continues through the first weekend of February.

However, organized McCall Area Chamber of Commerce (MACC) events will be reserved for the weekends, according to MACC Director Julie Whitescarver. Chamber events include the Mardi Gras Parade, the Idaho Snow Sculpting Competition, a torchlight parade, and closing fireworks over Payette Lake.

"It's becoming a little bit of a burden on some of the businesses. So, we're excited to be listening to them," carnival coordinator Tanya Neutze said. "We're doing this to support the local businesses so that for them, it will become a more positive thing."

The annual event has run for 10 straight days since the 1980's, according to Whitescarver. However, a housing crisis and staffing shortages at many local businesses has stretched them thin throughout the 10-day obligation.

"Our goal as a chamber is not simply to promote tourism in the McCall area, but rather, to support our business community through all of the various challenges it may face," the MACC wrote in the 2023 McCall Winter Carnival Guide.

According to the event guide, 82.5% of local businesses reported canceling the 2021 McCall Winter Carnival had no negative impact on their business. Moreover, 80% reported winter business increased through that same winter season. 

Around 70% of businesses supported either shortening the carnival to one weekend or moving it later in the winter.

"We really wanted to bring back something meaningful and magical for people to take home with them. That's our job," Whitescarver said.

The carnival is inspired by the 1924 Payette Winter games; an event organized by local ski resorts, according to Whitescarver. Shortening the carnival is also intended to bring the event back to its roots to the benefit of local Valley County residents.

Midweek events will still take place through the 2023 McCall Winter Carnival. The chamber does not run these events, but they are still promoted in the event guide.

The carnival typically draws 60,000 people to McCall throughout the event; carnival organizers estimate up to 15,000 attend the Mardi Gras Parade.

"Because of the COVID years we are following up here, we think it will be a tremendous turnout," Neutze said. "We are expecting record crowds. We'll see if it actually happens. Everyone has been shut in for so long. We're just looking forward to blowing it out of the water this year and making it big."

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