The tradition dates back to 1924, when passenger trains still ran between McCall and Boise. And while the railroad no longer runs that service, a steady train of vehicles up and down Idaho Highway 55 is a sure sign that it's time for the McCall Winter Carnival--a 10-day frozen blast that includes Idaho's wackiest Mardi Gras parade, dog sled races, gourmet meals, a snow bike race, fireworks and some pretty spectacular snow sculptures.
With a theme of "World of Wonders," this year's carnival kicks off with a children's torchlight parade, live music and fireworks over Payette Lake.
Things really kick into high gear Saturday, Jan. 25, with the parade, beginning at noon, featuring floats, bands and plenty of Mardi Gras beads that you won't need to disrobe in order to receive. The parade fills McCall's downtown for the better part of Saturday afternoon.
That same day, anyone crazy enough to jump into a huge tub of icy water is invited to participate in Sharlie's Plunge, named for the mythical sea serpent who "lives" in Payette Lake.
Dogs of every shape and size pull small weighted sleds through an obstacle course on Sunday, Jan. 25.
Another of this year's highlights is the Spirit of the Dream ice show on Friday, Jan. 31, and Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Manchester Ice and Events Centre, featuring 2011 U.S. men's figure skating champ Ryan Bradley.