IceFest kicks off Thursday in Chambersburg
Just as cabin fever is setting in around the south-central Pennsylvania region, Penny Shaul said, IceFest comes around with chills and thrills to help shake off the mid-winter blues.
Shaul is chairwoman of the festival in Chambersburg, Pa., which will run Thursday, Jan. 31 through Sunday, Feb. 3, featuring giant ice sculpture carving; a nearly 40-foot, double-wide ice slide; scavenger hunts; food vendors; live glass blowing demonstrations; art exhibits and much more.
Organizers bring in more than 30 tons of ice, Shaul said, and Jeannette, Pa.-based DiMartino Ice Co. provides the sculptures.
“The live carving is always popular. It’s pretty cool to watch them use chainsaws and torches and turn big blocks of ice into pretty detailed sculptures,” she said. “We change them every year. We’ll have quite a few new ones this year, more new ones than I think we have had before. I think people will be really surprised on Thursday.”
Those who attend the event seem to be especially fond of the interactive sculptures, she said, “the ones they can put their face in and the ones they can stand behind.”
The ice slide draws young and old alike.
“We have kids as young as three and grown women,” Shaul said. “There is one woman who comes every year on Sunday. She goes to church then she comes and takes a ride down the slide.”
IceFest has been going on since 2002 and has grown significantly over the years, with around 15,000 attending the festival over the course of four days.
“We actually close Main Street on Saturday to accommodate the crowd. The event is so big. The sidewalks were so crowded. We wanted to be sure it was safe. Now the street is open to pedestrians but not to vehicles to lighten up those pinch points,” Shaul said.
M&T Bank is the presenting sponsor of IceFest 2019, and the event serves as a fundraiser for three organizations — Chambersburg Council for the Arts, Downtown Business Council and Downtown Chambersburg Inc.
Shaul, who is from Nebraska and has volunteered with the festival for 15 years and chaired it for at least eight, owns women’s clothing store Here’s Looking At You and serves on the board of directors for the Council for the Arts.
“It’s a really nice joint effort of all three groups that just want our downtown to shine,” she said. “January tends to be slow in retail world. As business owners, it punches up business. It brings so many people to downtown that maybe would look to open up a business.”
New to this year’s event is more ice and more sculptures than ever before, as well as a pre-IceFest Carve-off Battle Wednesday, Jan. 30 at GearHouse Brewing Co., and the addition of a beer garden at the popular Saturday chili cookoff event. The chili cookoff has been modified to include barbecue under the new name Chili Q.
Other event staples include the Run Your Ice Off 5k, the polar dunk tank, a “Cake Boss-”like cake decorating contest, and Friday evening’s Snowfall Ball with dance lessons and a dance showcase.
Admission to the festival is free, with the exception of the Snowfall Ball which costs $12, Chili Q with a fee of $10 for 10 cups, and $1 admission for the Icing on the Cake event. Coinciding events run by other organizations might have additional costs.
With temperatures below 20 degrees forecasted for Thursday, in the 20s for Friday, and milder for Saturday and Sunday, Shaul expects this year’s IceFest to be “the coldest by far that we’ve had in about three years.”
“It’s been balmy the last two years, with ice melting away,” she said. “We are not going to have this problem this year, I don’t think.”
For a full schedule and complete details, visit icefestpa.com.
Top photo: In this 2018 file photo, Madi Holtry, front, of Chambersburg, enjoys the ice slide as her older sister Kaylleigh Holtry, rear, holds on to her at the annual IceFest in downtown Chambersburg, Pa. (Herald-Mail file photo)