A clear vision

By on February 20, 2014

The icy winter is wearing the collective patience thin, but for one weekend it was a welcome sight. Photo by Michele Walter Fry

The icy winter is wearing the collective patience thin, but for one weekend it was a welcome sight. Photo by Michele Walter Fry

Volunteers take on Mother Nature to save an unforgettable festival

Back-to-back storms on the doorstep of a festival that normally embraces frigid forecasts could have put the freeze on Fire & Ice, but a determined army of volunteers were determined to disobey Mother Nature.

Such insubordination can be a slippery slope, but the payoff can be grandeur beyond imagination.

The colorful spotlight on downtown Lititz, especially the park grounds, last Friday was another moment of pride-swelled splendor for a community not quite ready to relinquish its coolest small town moniker.

Lititz is fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers, such as Tom Benjamin, owner of T&B Signs. Tom spent a good part of Thursday clearing snow outside the Lititz Fire Co. with his front-end loader. Photo by Stephen Seeber

Lititz is fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers, such as Tom Benjamin, owner of T&B Signs. Tom spent a good part of Thursday clearing snow outside the Lititz Fire Co. with his front-end loader. Photo by Stephen Seeber

The lights were the highlight of this year’s event. Thousands ventured out to admire their breath-taking glow against dozens of ice sculptures and the red and green mist rising from the creek. It was hard to believe that just a few hours earlier, the event was in jeopardy. A double whammy buried Lititz on consecutive days, but the community stepped up to the plate.

“We had so many volunteers come together on Thursday and Friday to shovel, snow blowers, plows, etc.,” said event founder and chairwoman Dawn Rissmiller. “It was a great experience to see all these people who so wanted the event to be successful that they gave up so much time to ensure it.”

“What a team! Unbelievable,” added event staff member Amanda Cassel in regard to the effort.

The block party set the tone for the rest of the weekend, which included Saturday’s chili cook-off and winter carnival, and Sunday’s Rock & Ruckus and dodgeball tournament.

This week, as Lititz heads toward a summer-like 50 degree forecast, Rissmiller is in recovery mode, still awestruck by the majesty of Feb. 14.

“Friday night just hit it out of the park,” she said. “It’s funny that you envision stuff, but when you see it all come together it is so unbelievable.”

Ernie DiMartino of DiMartino Ice, the crew that does all the ice sculptures (more than 50 in all), had no doubts as he worked through the rough weather.

See photos from Fire & Ice

“I avoid negative energy,” he said while wheeling another 265 pound block of ice off of his truck. “We’ve seen it all. One time we saw all four seasons in one day.”

Ernie and his band of frozen assets (that’s from his repertoire of ice humor) arrived in Lititz early last week to beat the big storms, working day and night to be ready for 5 p.m. Friday. They time they spent on the Lititz Record Express sculpture alone amounted to several hours.

And then there was Chris Strayer and his team from Stray Lights. They donated their time and talent to put on the light display that people are still talking about. The scene in the park Friday night, from the festival logo against the spring’s stone wall to the colored steam rising from the creek, was magical. Prior to show time, Chris did two rounds of plowing in the park and several hours of wading in the frigid water of Lititz Run to set up his lights. And it was all gratis. When we last saw Chris around dusk on Friday, he was approaching 48 hours with no sleep, minus a 30 minute cat nap.

The result of all that effort was one of the most spectacular winter events in Lititz history.

“It really takes a team, and I am immensely grateful for each of them,” Rissmiller added. “It’s crazy in the moment, but when you get to sit back and review the whole thing it is such a wonderful feeling to know you were working side-by-side with these people who saw your vision, felt your passion and got excited in the process to make it a huge success.”

Fire & Ice 2014 will not soon be forgotten.

Stephen Seeber is the associate editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at sseeber.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4423.

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