The annual Winterfest arrives in Camden the first weekend in February, a series of cold-weather-feting events that culminates with the U.S. National Toboggan Championships at the Snow Bowl. In addition to snowboarding, tobogganing and, yes, jumping into the harbor, there are music, film and theater options for the whole family.

The latter is usually provided by the Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers, but this year, the MDI-based troupe was unavailable. Camden Public Library brings Frogtown Mountain to the Camden Opera House, so Programs Coordinator Cayla Miller contacted Camden Hills Regional High School teacher Kimberly Murphy about filling the one-hour, family-friendly slot Wednesday, Feb. 7, at 6 p.m. STORM-POSTPONED TO FRIDAY, FEB. 9.

Murphy, who lives in Lincolnville, has directed the area high school’s big fall musical from back when it was Camden-Rockport High in Camden. The first was “Bye, Bye Birdie” in 1997; the last, at least for now, was 2017’s “In the Heights.” Murphy informed her students, and the school, that she was stepping down from the role late last year.

“They were very supportive,” Murphy said of the students. “I said it was a very tough decision to make, very personal and, we weren’t going to talk about it — if they had questions later, they could ask me — but I’ve made the decision not to direct the musical next year. And I said ‘next year,’ because maybe in the fall I’ll be, oh, I can’t live without it!”

Living with the big fall musical has long been a serious balancing act. When Murphy first took up the task, she worked with Joe Klapatch, a parent with major music and theater production chops. She said he did the stage direction and she handled the music up until production week, when they switched roles — he conducted the pit orchestra and she took in and fine-tuned “the big picture.”

“So at the end, we swapped roles, which was really cool. After he left [Klapatch now lives in Waterville and works with the ACAT troupe there], it was really hard for me to figure out what my role was, because I didn’t want to go back to just doing musical direction,” she said.

Murphy solved her dilemma by collaborating with community members over the years, including Kathleen Jarrell, Erin Chenard, Hillary Dalpini and Doreen Duke. And always, her firm foundation has been local — and legally lowercase — keyboardist, composer and arranger joani mitchell, with whom Murphy also runs summer theater camps under the moniker Murphy Theater Productions.

“I’m hoping that whoever steps up to the directing position keeps joani on, because she has a wealth of knowledge of the musical aspect – the scene-change music and how you adapt to make kids look their best. There’s a whole lot that goes into it,” Murphy said.

A whole lot goes into producing the Camden Hills fall musical. It lost money the first year, Murphy said, but has been self-sustaining ever since — and there’s a lot to sustain, including a staff of eight to 10 adults, plus parent volunteers; close to four dozen student performers and as least as many behind the scene; as many as eight shows over two weekends. A show this big has a large budget to oversee. It’s rather like a seasonal business … and it pays its own bills.

“I think people assume that, because we’re a rich district, the musical is paid for out of the budget. It’s always been a source of pride for me that we actually pay our bills out of gate receipts,” Murphy said.

There are in fact four stipends supporting the production team, for the technical director, director, assistant director/producer — “sometimes that’s one person, sometimes it’s a shared position” — and pit orchestra director.

“But everything else is paid for by gate proceeds. It’s a big responsibility,” said Murphy.

Of course, there are always responsibilities at home — bills, laundry, cooking, cleaning, mowing, groceries, car maintenance, pet care, etc. — and for most of her musical years, Murphy had her late husband handling those during the two-and–a-half-month production timeframe.

“Although they hired me, they also had my husband there as support personnel,” Murphy said. “These past two years without him have been hard.”

Murphy said while she was choosing “In the Heights” — “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first full-length musical — there was “a moment when I really felt his influence,” referring to her late husband, Pete Murphy.

“I want to leave on a high, don’t want to have people pushing me out the door! And this one was so great, got a little shout-out from Lin-Manuel Miranda and raised $1,500, that feels really good,” she said.

She also feels the musical is in good hands, even as it searches for a new stage director, thanks to the Strom Auditorium’s technical director and tech teacher, Rick Ash.

“Rick is amazing! He has a really good way of pulling people like Terri Ralston, who comes in and does hair and makeup, she’s a professional makeup artist; and he pulls in professionals to work with kids on sound and lights, does workshops and reaches out to people in New York City to come up here for Youth Arts,” Murphy said. “He really is a driving force behind the success of the musical.”

The shows’ less obvious success is what Murphy has enjoyed the most. She said she loves “finding that undiscovered kid,” working with him or her for two months “and getting them out there to show people that wow, maybe they didn’t have the best grades, but look at what a great job they’re doing on stage.”

“So I love that part of it, how it can really boost kids’ self-confidence and give them an experience they never knew they were capable of,” she said. “That’s why it’s hard to let it go.”

But she’s not letting go of musical theater, as the Winterfest show will demonstrate. After being contacted by the library, she perused the Samuel French Inc. offerings and decided upon “Uncle Pirate,” Ben H. Winters’ stage adaptation of a book by Douglas Rees, with music and lyrics by Drew Fornarola. It’s a story about a fourth-grader who is being bullied; about his bully and his school; and about the arrival of an uncle whose, ah, profession, and approach to life, serves to transform everything.

“I pulled in three campers; a couple of homeschooled students; six high school students and Kathleen Jerrell, she’s playing the role of an adult. I’m doing it under the umbrella of Murphy Theater Productions, so it’s not really a school production,” Murphy said.

Murphy Theater Productions is something she came up with to run the summer camps and might play into some of her future endeavors.

“I definitely want to keep doing the little theater things, like the theater camp I do in the summer, and maybe some smaller-cast musicals — things that are edgier or something with a message or something that’s fundraising for a cause,” she said.

And, of course, she continues to teach choral music at Camden Hills. Upcoming is the annual Dessert Cabaret that features the school’s Chamber Singers, Women's Choir and a cappella groups Fortissima and Off Beats, all helmed by Murphy. This year’s event, set for Monday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. and accompanied as usual by an all-you-can-eat dessert buffet, also will have a musical theater appetizer.

“Tatum Dowd is student-directing ‘21 Chump Street,’ which is another Lin-Manuel Miranda piece. It’s a 15-minute show, based on a true story … so if people want to come earlier, we’ll have a 6:15 p.m. show in the chorus room, followed by the Dessert Cabaret at 7 in the Wave Café,” said Murphy.

First up, though, is “Uncle Pirate,” the Winterfest family show at the downtown Camden Opera House. The cast features Hunter Rahkonen, Nick Watts, Colin Stewart, Annabel Parker, Kevin Bergelin, Alexys Schaeffer, Wesley Henderson, Preston Henderson, Anna Weber, Cooper McBride and Jarrell. Choreography is by Gretchen Henderson, and mitchell is the accompanist.

“What’s sort of ironic is that the largest person in our cast is our ‘fourth-grader,’ and the person who is bullying him is one of the smallest persons in our cast. It sort of paints a picture that it doesn’t matter your size, you can still feel like you’re being bullied,” said Murphy.

Children attending will find lessons galore, along with a lot of fun … and some will get a little bravery-inducing totem to take home.

“I have 100 extra eye-patches, so we’re going to give them to the first 100 children,” Murphy said.

The “Uncle Pirate” crew had its first get-together over the December break — Murphy waited until the one-act play was cast — and has been meeting twice a week to prepare the show.

“It’s really hard to find the time with all the different things going on, midterms and the district musical festival coming up and lots of things, so we’re just trying to whip it together,” Murphy said. “Tiare Messing is letting me borrow all of her husband’s pirate stuff.” (Brian Messing used to be Blackbeard at the Maine Lobster Festival).

Although she will share the documents and timeline she’s honed over the past 21 years, come fall, Murphy will be doing her best to stay away from the musical’s prep, out of respect for whoever will be directing. But she’ll be there when it opens, she assured her students last fall.

“'I’ll be there!' I told the kids, I’ll be in the audience, cheering them on. Some are pretty heartbroken, but I’m saying, wow, look at the bright side, there’s going to be somebody new coming in, and any chance you get to work with somebody different, you always learn new things. And that’s what life is! It’ll still go on and be wonderful,” she said.

Tickets for “Uncle Pirate” are available at Camden Public Library, $5 per person — free for children younger than 5 — or $15 for a family.