In the frigid winters of Minnesota, a popular way to escape the freezing temperatures of the North is watching movies.
And Winona has its own film festival to do just that.
The Frozen River Film Festival is a documentary film festival held annually in Winona Minnesota.
The festival recently concluded its 13th season, drawing in about 3,000 attendees.
Frozen River included five days of events, Feb. 7 to Feb. 11, on the last day an award ceremony honored some of the most popular films.
Each year, the festival features documentary films whose subjects focus on local, regional and world importance.
Festival director Sara Enzenauer said. “Planning for the festival is a year-long process. A lot of the heavy lifting takes place a few months before the actual dates, but there is a lot we are trying to do in the offseason.”
This year is Enzenauer’s first as festival director.
She started as an intern while sew was a Winona State University student, with a film minor, working her way up from intern to director.
Along with offering a wide array of films for moviegoers to watch, the festival included live music, artisan foods, and a vendor fair.
Attendees had a choice of 70 films to attend in different venues across town including Winona 7 theatre, Winona State University, St. Mary’s University and Island City Brewing Company.
One patron, Craig Thompson, said he has been attending since the festival started in 2005.
Thompson said he thought one of the best things about coming to the festival was learning about the variety of topics and issues the films covered.
Frozen River Film Festival is a nonprofit organization that uses donations and fundraising to pay for the films, guest lodgings, and venues.
According to Enzenauer, the budget for this year’s festival was $116,000.
“Our fiscal year starts in May and ends in Aril, “Enzenauer said, “so a lot of our spending takes place on promised funds, or what we think we are going to make in tickets. It’s a very interesting balancing act!”
In, Enzenauer’s first year as festival director was a success.
“We are all really pleased with how the festival went,” Enzenauer said. “I was worried that the numbers would drop quite a bit since it was a big transition year, but we were able to keep things pretty steady”.
Malinda Schmiechen, a regular patron of Frozen River, recalled how some films she has watched at the festival have changed her life.
“One year the theme was garbage,”Schmiechen said. There was a film about recycling that changed my life,” Schmiechen said.
One of the complaints heard at the festival was that it was impossible to see every film and that audiences had to pick which to attend.
Overall, the festival holds a sense of education and community to many of the patrons.
“I like to be challenged and learn about things,” Schmiechen said.
Enzenauer said Frozen River Film Festival takes all year to plan, so just days after this year’s festival has ended, she and the festival committee are already beginning to plan for Frozen River 2019.
“It was a little bare bones this year, and there is room for a lot of improvement,” said Enzenauer.
The festival committee plans to work more on their consistency, organization and communication for next year.