Sturgeon Spectacular's Lakeside Park events have moved downtown, but spirits aren't dampened by the weather

Several area restaurants are also offering dining and drink specials around Sturgeon Spectacular weekend.

Daphne Lemke
Fond du Lac Reporter

FOND DU LAC — Don't let the tepid weather fool you: Fond du Lac's winter festival is gearing up to celebrate the season and "really big fish."

Paralleled with the sturgeon spearing season's opening weekend, Sturgeon Spectacular kicks off Feb. 9 with winter activities, live entertainment and more throughout the weekend.

Information about all the events and specials is available at

Here's what's in store across downtown Fond du Lac, Lakeside Park and beyond.

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Feb. 9 kickoff

Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts will start festivities with kids' activities starting at 5 p.m. Feb. 9 in the Fountain City at the center, 51 Sheboygan St.

Free games, prizes and a magic show are on the roster for the evening, as well as a chance to spear Jerry the Sturgeon. Parents can also enjoy complimentary adult beverages.

At 6 p.m., the THELMA will open its cash bar in preparation for a free concert with multi-genre quartet Copper Box in the Great Hall Ballroom.

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Downtown activities

On Feb. 10, Downtown Snow Land will open at 10 a.m. with winter play activities, including the Big Hill, a spirally slide, photo opportunities and snow sculpting.

Free horse-drawn carriage rides from Cooper Carriages of Mt. Calvary will also kick off at 10 a.m., offering 15-minute rides through downtown until 2 p.m. The pick-up and drop-off location is the Downtown Event Hub, 33 Sheboygan St.

Both Snow Land and the carriage rides will also be available Feb. 11.

Also available both days is the chance to watch ice carvers create their sculptures across the downtown area and get your picture taken at each one.

Ice carver Ted Bonde, of Kiel, Wis., chisels out what he says will be a bluegill in ice during the Sturgeon Spectacular, Saturday, February 11, 2023, in Fond du Lac, Wis. He used a piece of cardboard to prevent the sun from harming his carving ice block.

Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership will host the Sweet Stroll, tasting homemade sweet treats at participating businesses, and the 15th annual Chili Crawl with a chance to vote for your favorite of various businesses' unique chili recipes, both Feb. 10.

As of Feb. 2, tickets for the Sweet Stroll were sold out, but tickets were still available for the Chili Crawl for $15.

Games and live entertainment at the THELMA

In addition to its regularly-scheduled events for the weekend, the THELMA will be home base for several events usually hosted at Lakeside Park or on Lake Winnebago, which have been moved this year for the safety of attendees.

Family-friendly activities include sturgeon mini-games inside the center, curling tutorials, mini bonfires and s'mores, afternoon wagon rides, an appearance from Whiffer and Fang from the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, and ice games that have been adapted to play on solid ground.

Erik Johnson, of Fond du Lac, releases the stone while curling on Lake Winnebago during the Sturgeon Spectacular, Saturday, February 11, 2023, in Fond du Lac, Wis.

Spearing and Beering will also be outside the THELMA this year, including the Sturgeon Show-off Station to brag about the biggest catches, as well as the Sturgeon Spectacular Commemorative Steins, available while supplies last. Concessions will be available at Downtown Deli, Market & Cafe.

THELMA will end the Saturday festivities with a Comedy Showcase at 7 p.m. featuring Ka$h Money Karl, Dean Berg and Hayden Fredriksen. General admission is $10.

On Feb. 11, the Sturgeon Spectacular Finale will start at 11 a.m., with live music from 5 Card Studs starting at noon and announcements at 1:30 p.m. with the winners of various competitions throughout the weekend.

Competitions to watch and participate in

Starting Friday afternoon, the best snow sculptors in the state will be working their craft all weekend with the hopes of winning a trip to the 2025 U.S. Championship and the $1,000 cash prize for first place. The People's Choice ballots are due at the info table inside the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts by 11 a.m. Feb. 11, and judging starts at 1 p.m.

An overall of the snow carving area at the Fond du Lac Public library, Saturday, February 11, 2023, in Fond du Lac, Wis.

New this year is a snow sculpting competition among area high school students Feb. 10, for which the winners get customized matching sweatshirts and a traveling trophy to keep at their school until the next competition.

A Curling Funspiel double-elimination tournament kicks off at 9 a.m. Feb. 10 at THELMA.

Also at THELMA, bartenders will face off Feb. 11 for the Art of the Bloody Mary contest to create a creative Bloody Mary drink in front of a panel of experts.

5K Run/Walk and Kids' Fun Run at Lakeside Park

A 5K Run/Walk through Lakeside Park Feb. 10 will start at 10:30 a.m., with race-day registration opening at 9 a.m. in the pavilion. Registration is $20.

A free half-mile Kids' Fun Run for ages 12 and younger will start at 10 a.m.

Dining and drink specials

Area restaurants and bars will have sturgeon-themed and other specials throughout the weekend, including the following:

  • 18 Hands Ale Haus & Biergarten, 18 E. Division St., will offer hot chili with cheese-stuffed breadsticks, and the option to add a pint of draft beer for $2.
  • Brick House, 161 S. Main St., will have menu items like the “Bottom Dweller” cocktail, Big Fish Sandwich and calamari alfredo Feb. 9 and 10.
  • C.C.’s Chocolates Cafe, 57 N. Macy St., will have a Shanty Warm-Up Latte and a chance to win one of three prizes Feb. 9 and 10.
  • Fat Joe's Burgers and Brew, 15 W. Division St., will offer a Super Bowl Buffet Feb. 11.
  • Hang 10 Poké, 74 S. Main St., will offer an onigiri special: two onigiri, a dipping sauce and a boba tea for $10 Feb. 9 and 10.
  • Mix it Up Bakery, 64 N. Main St., will have fresh donuts Feb. 9 through 11.
  • THELMA will have a hot cocoa and Irish coffee bar with all the fixings, plus specialty cocktails, mocktails and "Lake Winnebago Water" shots.
  • Throwback Pockets, 119 S. Main St., will offer five-for-$12 beer buckets, as well as a “Lake Winne-septic" shot for $2 each Feb. 9 through 11.
  • Wonder, 15 N. Main St., will have a Frosty Fin Fizz drink: blueberry lemonade and sparkling water with a splash of cream, garnished with fish-shaped gummy candies.
  • La Clare Creamery, W2994 County HH in Malone, will offer an Opening Weekend Breakfast Burrito at its cafe, plus sturgeon merchandise and Sturgeon Survival Kits in its store Feb. 10 and 11.

Shopping and other local business specials

Hotel Retlaw, 1 N. Main St., is the Official Hotel of the Wisconsin State Snow Sculpting competitors, and will also offer a room rate special of $139 plus taxes and fees per night from Feb. 9 through 11.

Beauty Republic Salon, 131 S. Main St., Suite 100, will invite customers to "fish for a sturgeon" to find their deal on a manicure or pedicure Feb. 9 through 11.

Blue Culture Tees, 82 S. Macy St., will have customers also fish for savings on sweatshirts, bags, action figures, T-shirts and more Feb. 9 and 10.

Cujak's Wine and Spirits, 47 N. Main St., will have a Wine Spear Special, offering a flight of four 2-ounce pours of wine for $18 Feb. 9 and 10.

Fond du Lac Cyclery, 209 S. Main St., will offer an accessory credit throughout February for customers that have their bike serviced with one of the store's regular packages: $10 credit for a “Lighthouse,” $25 credit for a “Loop” and $40 credit for a “Ledge.” The credit must be used at time of service.

Gallery & Frame Shop, 94 S. Main St., will have a brand-new inventory of sturgeon-themed stickers and decals available to buy one, get one free while supplies last.

Hopper’s Screen Printing & Embroidery, 77 N. Main St., has Sturgeon Spectacular merchandise and apparel leading up to the festival.

Knitty Gritty Shop, 63 N. Main St., will have a sturgeon fish bowl to catch a deal from, which can include 10% to 20% off merchandise, free project bags and more Feb. 9 and 10.

Main Street Fashion, 117 S. Main St., will invite customers to "spear" some savings and get either 10%, 15% or 20% off all merchandise Feb. 9 and 10.

Daphne Lemke is the Streetwise reporter for the Fond du Lac Reporter. Contact her at