Golden Snowball an Interview
 with Peter Chaston

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An Interview With Peter Chaston The Inventor of The Golden Snowball Contest

     When I read some of the news reports today 3/21 and last night that Syracuse won the Golden Snowball Award again this year I was shocked to say the least.  I was thinking how can it be called in March when we all know that most likely there will be more snowfall in the near future.  Did the contest in the past end once Spring arrived.  Has the resurrection of the contest been wrong for the last couple years by not making a call until it look improbable that the snowfall season was over or that a certain city had a big enough lead to call it a wrap.  Well there was only one person that came to mind to find out from and that was Peter Chaston the man who started the contest.

     I had the pleasure today to finally talk to the main man.  A man of facts, stats and knowledge.  Peter Chaston, the original person who thought it would be fun and started this contest up back in the late 70's.  Let me also add that regardless of what you might of read or seen on the news the contest is not over.

     My first impression of Mr. Chaston was wow!  How can someone from the top of his head just start rattling off stats faster than I could write them down.  I have a hard time remembering what year I was born and here was Peter giving stats back from 1816.  Impressive is probably an understatement.  Bear with me while I try to cover some of the things we talked about.  Remember a writer I am not.  That's Sean Kirst's job and a job he does well.  More about Sean in a bit.

The first thing I wanted to know and asked Peter was what are some of the rules you went by back in the late 70's when it started and the late 80's when the contest seemed to slowly slip away?  I told him that news is breaking out that Syracuse won this year already.  He said that it is way too early to call any city a winner and stated that on a normal year the contest would be called a wrap about mid May when the chances are slim for any real accumulation.  Mr. Chaston also said that "calling it over even on May 1st if it was a close race with just a few inches separating the city's would be risky". 

    For the most part Mr. Chaston said that the contest would begin annually around the 1st of October and end sometime in May.  Never in March.  He remembers a snowfall as far along as in June.  Unfortunately being the great interviewer that I am I didn't get a chance to write down the year and looking at all the notes I took and the way I took them we'll let the year slide by and probably a bunch more that I missed from Chaston.  So in other words no way is this contest over with.  Sure it is looking good for Syracuse right now and the probability of them winning again is pretty high but no way is it conclusive.  Not on March 21 anyways and not on here at

     Some of the cool stats that Peter mentioned was back in 1816 it snowed a good part of the year including in July where snow was recorded.  This was all do to Volcano ash which blocked the sun rays out.  He also explained how back in the 80's how much fun the contest was.  He recollected on some years when over 1000 people would come out to watch the presentation of the trophy being handed over to the winning city.  It was an event he stated.  An event in which bands would play, officials from all over would be around and so on.  It was truly an event in which it should be.  Why not celebrate the end of a long winter, warmer weather on the way?   Does anyone even know how the presentation went last year?  I haven't a clue because I wasn't  invited and haven't talked to anyone that was.  Was there even a presentation or was the trophy just dusted off for another season?

     Sean Kirst who is a journalist for the Post Standard and Peter Chaston are a couple of people who know what it's about.  Two people who have always gotten it.  It's about a contest to have fun with.  It's about a contest with some fascinating stats which include that Syracuse could be one of the snowiest city's in the world based on population per capita according to Mr. Chaston.  Both Kirst and Chaston would love to see this contest turn into a festival.  Something that it once was.  One of Sean's suggestions is to rename the Winterfest the Golden Snowball Fest.  If you think about it, it's a good idea.  Everyone has a Winterfest.  How many cities have a Golden Snowball Fest?  If not that why not a whole another festival in it's own.

     For some reason city officials don't want to be associated with heavy snowfalls.  People won't want to work or live in that type of city.  OK, lets let them think the cities in NY are just like Florida.  It might be a bit hard hiding some of the 10 foot snow banks but hey!  Mr. Chaston summed it up perfectly.  It snows in Syracuse and in the other city's.  "You can't hide that fact so do something with it".  My first thought is to let the downtown merchants and restaurants in the city decide whether or not to make it another day where people flock downtown to enjoy the Golden Snowball party and what the venders and merchants have to offer.  My guess is they would be all for it.  That's revenue being pumped into the winning city not to mention the media coverage.

     What media coverage?  Lets look back the last few years. The obvious is  that local and New York media put out several articles a year.  CNN has mentioned the contest, USA normally puts out an article on it.  Bill Kates of the (AP) Associated Press does at least one or two article on the Golden Snowball contest which can be picked up worldwide.  One of my favorites was that Saturday Night Live even plugged the contest in their comedy news segment.  If you think this is just local think again.  Think of what we have going in snowy New York and think of where this could go.  A lot farther than it has.  More to come tomorrow including some suggestions from Peter Chaston and I'd like to thank him for taking the time today.