The winter air smeared the bus windows with condensation for the passengers to paint patterns with their fingers. Rolling up the winding mountain roadway, a final turn in the switchbacks brought the lake into view. Amidst the trees dressed in snowy gowns, the sunlight shimmered across the frozen waters and lit up the crystals hidden under the eaves of the buildings nestled along the shore. The festival decorated the streets with strings of glass bulbs and banners that hung cold in the daylight, but promised a joyful radiance after the season’s early sunset. Turning down an alleyway, ice sculptures blazed with neon lights locked deep within each pillar, coloring the glassy figures and temples in blues, greens, and pinks. A hearty soup in a warm restaurant recharged fingers and toes before traveling down to the lake.
The festival ebbed in boisterous harmony to the clamor of a thousand revelers and a whistle’s shrill cadence. With a shout and rush, each blast sent a line of inner tubes carrying their riders down an icy ramp and across the ice. In another section, circular cuts in the ice dotted the lake like portholes opening the waters for lures and lines. Excited shouts shot up from the crowd as silvery trout leapt onto the ice, pulled by an angler’s lure. Smoke and steam billowed from the shops along the shore where fisherman delivered their prizes into the oven. The greasy flavors stuck to the tongue on the long ride back in the wintry sunset. In the distance, the lights came on and shot into the sky as the celebration continued into the night.