New festival thunders into Green Lake

by Hannah Tetzlaff

Before ThunderBoss Bar & Grill in Green Lake was a twinkle in an eye, owners Chris Barbin and Lori Csaszar knew they wanted to create ThunderFest.

“I’ve been on this project [planning ThunderFest] since November before we opened up the doors of ThunderBoss,” ThunderBoss head chef Trent Hazelberg said. “Even back then, when I first met Chris and Lori, they were talking like, ‘We want to do Winter Fest,’ and that was even a conversation before ‘What’s on the menu?’”

After Winter Fest, a popular winter festival in Green Lake, ended in 2008, Barbin and Csaszar “noticed a vacancy,” Hazelberg said. “[They] heard glory days stories of Winter Fest … and the amount of people that use to come to Green Lake … So 11 years later, here we are trying to reignite the flame and getting people outside and excited to be outside.”

A few months after opening its doors in June, ThunderBoss announced in August with save-the-date posters its intention to recreate Green Lake’s winter fun with ThunderFest.

The winter festival thundering into Green Lake Saturday will offer a host of activities from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., with events ranging from a hockey tournament to a fishing clinic to live music.

As the ThunderBoss organizers prepared for the festival, one event that they had to include for this to be a true winter festival was a fisheree, Hazelberg noted.

“So we got Walleyes for Tomorrow, running a youth fishing clinic for us and that’s really an awesome thing,” Hazelberg said, adding registration is at 8 a.m, with the event starting at 9.

Cost is $5 with proceeds going toward Walleyes for Tomorrow.

“The first hundred kids get a rod, a reel, a tackle box and everything they need to go fishing that day,” he said. “… The grand prize for that is a $350 pop-up tent donated by Walleyes for Tomorrow, so that’s really cool.”

As a father of two, he added, he thinks it’s amazing that the kids can receive all the fishing gear they could need and spend time fishing with a parent, grandparent or friend.

Along with Walleyes for Tomorrow, Norton’s Dry Dock also will offer a fishing event called “Beginner Fishing for Kids.”

The business will have a few ice fishing shanties out on the frozen lake in front of ThunderBoss.

“Little kids can experience fishing. [It’s] just kind of getting them introduced to fishing, and he’ll probably have hot cocoa in there and stuff like that for the kids as well,” Hazelberg said.

Another key event that started off the planning process was a live performance.

“We are lively, young people, so we definitely wanted to have music,” Hazelberg said. “The big pièce de résistance of the afternoon is Road Trip, the local band, is going to be playing in our parking lot from 3 o’clock to 7 o’clock, so that’ll be a blast to kind of cap off the evening.”

Winter sports Activities

After securing the two events they knew they wanted right away, another idea was presented: a sanctioned pond hockey tournament.

“[This will be] the first-ever sanctioned pond hockey tournament in the state of Wisconsin,” Hazelberg said, noting organizers of the event, Dan and Patty Hutter, discovered this fact.

As a sanctioned tournament, a bunch of organized teams from around the state will participate in this event.

“[It’s] very cool to break that out to the public,” Hazelberg said.

The tournament will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dartford Bay

After the tournament, the ice skating rink will be free for open skate.

ThunderBoss didn’t stop there, though. The organizers wanted to offer more.

“We were really trying to just spread the wings and try to find stuff for everybody to do, so it’s a little bit family-orientated,” Hazelberg said.

The event they had in mind was “Kitty Kat races,” otherwise known as kids snowmobiling racing.

Hazelberg noted this type of race isn’t new for lakes around Green Lake, so it may be a familiar event for some families but new for others.

“We wanted to make sure that we could have some sort of racing opportunity to kind of really broaden the horizon,” he said. “So it’s not just a fishing tournament. It’s not just watching some people play hockey or watch some music. You can actually watch some people go racing.”

Registration for the races is at 8 a.m. with tech (an inspection) at 9 and racing at 10. Races will last until 3 p.m. and awards will follow.

The races are open for youth age 5 to 15 with cost per race at $20. For members of the Wisconsin Kitty Cat Racers, cost is only $13 per race.

Additional events

Other possible activities at Deacon Mills Park during that time may include a snowman decorating contest — painting snowmen with non-toxic paint — hosted by the Green Lake Chamber of Commerce or winter cornhole tournament and maybe even a game of winter volleyball, Hazelberg noted.

He added that the winter weather may not be a friend to all, so for those “who aren’t such a big fan of being outside or only want to be outside for a little bit, we have free kids movies going on at the Caestecker Public Library,” he said. “They were gracious enough to help us out there and actually expanding their hours to do such a thing for us.”

Hazelberg added the movie may be winter-themed, and after talking with Library Director Linda DeNell, “she said they have a vast array of movies and they’ll kind of go with the crowd favorite for what people kind of want to watch.”

And when individuals do want to brave the cold, winter weather, they can warm up with hot chocolate, coffee, breakfast sandwiches and donuts provided by Guth’s Candy Shop and Sassafras coffee shop from 8 to 11 a.m. at ThunderBoss.

Hazelberg added burgers, brats, soda and beer also will be available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the ThunderBoss parking lot.

What success looks like?

For Hazelberg and the owners of ThunderBoss, a successful ThunderFest would mean drawing in 1,000 people.

Though this isn’t a small feat with competing events going on this weekend as well, such as Battle of Bago, they believe it can be done.

“The WKCR (Wisconsin Kitty Cat Racers) guys have a following of 300 plus people,” Hazelberg said.
“… We’re banking on the WKCR folks to kind of follow through and show up. Road Trip has a great following and they’re a popular band.”

He noted since ThunderBoss posted its save-the-date posters for ThunderFest back in August, he’s heard from numerous people who are interested in visiting Green Lake for the festival.

“We’ve had people from Chicago, Minneapolis and all the surrounding areas really excited about Winter Fest coming back to Green Lake [in the form of ThunderFest],” Hazelberg said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of people coming from all around the state and surrounding states, as well, to participate and have fun and experience it.”

He added ThunderBoss hopes this festival can be a repeat event, something that people can look forward to year after year
“and hopefully involve more of the local establishments and getting everyone involved in the future. Just really be a great event for the Green Lake economy.”

Hazelberg isn’t too concerned about inclement weather, noting in the past ThunderBoss was fortunate enough to have “lots of friends in good places to help us manage this snow,” Hazelberg said.

For more information on the festival, visit and click on the “ThunderFest” tab, which includes an event map, event sponsors and event lodging.