By Johanna S. Billings

The second installment of Monson’s bicentennial celebration is coming up!

To honor the town’s 200th birthday in 2022, activities are scheduled each month throughout the year. February’s activity is Snow Roller Day, set for Saturday, Feb. 19. The fun starts at 7 a.m. with the opening of a coloring contest and runs until 5 p.m. with awards, a bonfire, and tug-of-war. 

The snow roller is a predecessor to the snow plow. Rollers made primarily of spruce and oak were pulled by a team of horses to pack down the snow in order to create a smooth road surface. The first roller for this area was built in 1914 by Walter Sears of Willimantic, according to the Monson Historical Society. Measuring about 6 feet wide and 5 feet in diameter, the rollers were accompanied by shallow troughs in the front and back. One carried feed for the horses and the other held shovels and other equipment. Rollers remained in use locally until the winter of 1932–33.

The advent of the snow roller made travel in winter much less difficult. Most towns in New England had rollers though, often, they were pulled by oxen rather than horses. Rollers performed well in light fluffy snow but heavy snow would often stick to them, so it would need to be cleaned off before continuing. In spring, all the packed snow would turn to ice and then mud!

Photo courtesy of Glenn S. Poole
HORSE POWER Before the advent of the snow plow, a horse-drawn snow roller was used to pack down snow, making winter travel much easier. Monson has one of the few left intact, and it will be on display at the Feb. 19 Snow Roller Day.

Monson has one of only a few remaining intact snow rollers and it will be on display at the Monson Historical Society building all day during the event.

Antique sleds and skis also will be on display on the shores of Lake Hebron. A kick sled will be raffled off and visitors can purchase Monson bicentennial merchandise and enjoy hot chocolate. A display of work by local artists will be open from noon to 4 p.m. at the Monson Gallery. Rest rooms will be available.

Events scheduled throughout the day include a self-timed cross country ski race from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., winter sliding races 10-11:30 a.m., winter games noon to 2 p.m., an assortment of winter races 2-4 p.m., and an ice skating party starting at 4 p.m. A snowmobile parade is also scheduled for the afternoon.

Demonstrations include pottery from 10 a.m. to noon and ski joring at 11 a.m. A cribbage tournament is set for noon to 2 p.m. after which art activities, games and face painting will take place. 

Winter traveler Garrett Conover will present a talk titled, “What the Ice Can Tell Winter Enthusiasts” at 10 a.m. at the Moore Building. The presentation will cover the basics of ice formation and behavior on both still and moving water in a manner of interest to winter athletes, ecologists, naturalists, and the curious.

For more information, email clerk@monsonmaine.org or find the Monson ME Bicentennial page on Facebook.