SPIRIT LAKE - At the Winter Fun Fest in downtown Spirit Lake, snow bowling is a full-contact sport.
First, you lie belly-down on a fast sled, stretched out like a skeleton racer at the Winter Olympics. Then, with the crowd watching (and often jeering), your "friends" push you off a gigantic snow hill right in the middle of Maine Street.
You accelerate. Your sled skids down the ramp. You brace for impact, level your helmet like a battering ram, and POW! - you crash violently into a squad of life-sized inflatable football players.
The object is to knock over as many of these "pins" as you can. Despite the impact, participants claim snow bowling isn't as rough as it looks.
"The bowling was the easiest," said 17-year-old Kyle Frates, a student at Timberlake High School. Representing Millers Food City in Spirit Lake, his four-person squad won the overall Fun Fest competition on Saturday.
The toughest contest was "probably when you drag that doghouse around," Frates said. "There's 250 pounds of sand (inside)."
Vying for the coveted Fun Fest trophy, teams competed in snow volleyball, smushing, igloo pulling - the "igloo" is the doghouse Frates mentioned - and sled bowling.
For smushing, teams were strapped to a pair of long 2x4s and tried to cross-country ski. Chaos ensued.
"They have to make it through a course," said festival volunteer Shelly Nave. "They don't make it very far, but they try."
Organizers used a front end loader to build the Maine Street mountain, picking up snow from different spots in Spirit Lake. The weather was rainy and overcast on Saturday, so the hill was a little sloppy.
"Pretty good turnout though; wasn't too bad," said George "Hollywood" Zick of Spirit Lake, another event volunteer. "Pretty neat seeing something like this, you know?"
Aside from the team contest, festival-goers played games, circled around campfires and roasted marshmallows and hot dogs.
Protected from rain, entries in the chamber of commerce chili challenge simmered in their crockpots.
"I think the activities were just great," said Debby Mikula of Spirit Lake, who attended her first Fun Fest on Saturday. "I like the skiing on the 2x4s. (There was) a lot of cheering on."
Spirit Lake hosted its first Fun Fest last winter. The event has quickly become a town tradition.
Nave said she thought everyone had a good time at this year's festival.
"I think it went pretty well, except for of course the weather, we couldn't control, so that kept some people away," she said. "I think everyone had a good time. I think they enjoyed the chili, and they of course enjoyed the races. Everyone has been great about helping. We have a lot of volunteers."
Eight-year-old Ian Gardom slides down a snow mountain on Saturday at the Winter Fun Fest in Spirit Lake. Organizers built a giant hill in the middle of Maine Street.