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Dolenz to headline Lambertville New Hope Winter Festival

Dakoda Carlson

The Lambertville New Hope Winter Festival, which is entering its 24th year, is coming back next weekend with two lively events.

Founded in 2000, the fest took a break in 2021 and 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, it reintroduced the classic chili cook-off. This year, the annual concert returns as well.

The Winter Festival is a project of the nonprofit Twin Rivertown Inc., whose mission is to hold fun, festive events to New Hope and Lambertville in the dead of winter.

Executive Director John Danaher said “historically, the annual concerts and the chili cook-off have been the two most popular events” and locals are excited to have them back.

“People were definitely excited that Winter Festival was back,” said Danaher.

The fest was notorious for having multiple events scattered during specific weekend/week dates. Its largest festival, held back in 2020, included multiple events over two different weekends and during the week between.

The organizers are hoping each year they can add more to bring the festival back to this successful scale.

This year, Winter Festival is hosting a concert with performance by Mickey Dolenz, best-known as a member of the classic L.A.-based band “The Monkees” and the intense chili cook-off, which includes chili made by local restaurants.

Previous concerts featured artists such as Peter Asher from Peter & Gordon, and Jeremy Clyde from Chad and Jeremy.

Mickey Dolenz’s performance was booked last year for this upcoming festival. John Danaher, a musician himself, co-produces the annual concerts.

Chili cook-off organizer and volunteer Eric Green said the cook-off was an obvious Winter Festival fit from the start, when it was a charity event held at River Horse Brewing Co. in Lambertville in an old oyster cracker factory. Green said that was “a few years before the dawning of Winter Fest.”

This year, there will be a cash prize given to the winner, sponsored by Union Chill Cannabis Company in Lambertville.

“The event tends to bring back quite a few contenders looking to take back or earn a place on the podium for the first time,” Green said.

The cook-off judges are “culinary professionals, government officials, food critics and chili aficionados,” he added.

This year, both the cook-off and the concert will be held indoors — the cook-off at Triumph Brewery, and the concert at New Hope Winery.

Money raised from the events is donated back into the local community. This year, funds are being distributed between the Fisherman’s Mark Social Services and Delaware Valley food pantries, both in Lambertville

Danaher said that as these events expand and raise more funds, his team will “work with local parks and recreation groups, scholarship funds and other community groups as donation recipients.”

Danaher said “restaurants and businesses on both sides of the river have always been exceptionally generous in their support of our events” and that slowly bringing more and more events back each year is a deliberate move.

“Starting off slowly with events is deliberate in order to be conscious of the pandemic-related financial toll and staffing challenges our wonderful sponsors and bars experienced as they recovered from the past three years,” said Danaher. “This year, ticket sales for the concert and Chili Cook-off are brisk with both events on track to sell out. I’d say there is a lot of enthusiasm.”

The Mickey Dolenz concert at New Hope Winery is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Feb. 2. Doors open at 7 p.m.

The Chili Cook-off is held at Triumph Brewery from noon to 3 p.m. Feb. 4.