This ice is nice

By on February 13, 2014

Last week’s ice storm, one of many recent winter challenges, littered Lititz Springs Park with splintered tree limbs. But Jerry McKonly’s crew will have the grounds in tip-top shape for Friday night’s Fire & Ice kick-off. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Last week’s ice storm, one of many recent winter challenges, littered Lititz Springs Park with splintered tree limbs. But Jerry McKonly’s crew will have the grounds in tip-top shape for Friday night’s Fire & Ice kick-off. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Despite recent storms, the park is ready for a spectacular show Friday night

by Stephen Seeber

This winter weather is perfect!

If you’re an ice sculptor.

But even those who are holding a grudge against Punxsutawney Phil will want to venture out of their burrows this Friday night for what is expected to be the most extraordinary winter event Lititz has ever witnessed.

The Fire & Ice Festival is back for a ninth year of making February matter in downtown Lititz, and 2014, amid a barrage of seemingly relentless winter storms, will showcase the beauty, not the beast, that is ice.

This just in!

Most of the new special effect features have been kept top secret … until now. Last week, when the Record Express asked Dawn Rissmiller, event chairwoman and co-founder, what the wow factor would be on Feb. 14, she simply said, “I can tell you it’s going to blow everyone out of the water.”

That was a hint.

Now, with the event just about a day away, she let us in on what is sure to be Friday night’s big attraction.

“We are placing the ice in the water this year,” she said.

What?

That’s right, the vast expanse of intricate ice sculptures will take over downtown Lititz and line the walkways of the entire Lititz Springs Park. Last year’s illuminations, creatively orchestrated by Chris Strayer of Stray Lights, were a huge upgrade. This year, Dawn and her team are taking it to the next level by putting sculptures in the creek.

“It will be at the foot of the park, in the pond (all the way in the back),” she explained. “We are also working with Stray Lights to have one of the sculptures actually suspended in the air. That will also be in the park.”

Imagine Main and Broad streets, and all of the park, lined with colorfully illuminated tributes to the mighty cold. It’s a vision that warms the heart of its creator.

Ernie DiMartino, the main sculptor with DiMartino Ice, told her long ago to dream big.

“He said to me, ‘Close your eyes. What do you want it to look like?’

“It took us nine years, with great partnerships, to get it to where we wanted it to be. We have been working so hard to make it breathtaking. We really want to encourage people to come down to the park. Chris is amazing.”

And when you’re in the park, be sure to stop by the Record Express’ ice sculpture, which is a newspaper delivery boy (appropriate since we just returned to this traditional style of delivery as part of our redesign plan). The whole news team will be ladling out hot cider and handing out commemorative issues of this week’s redesign debut, a certain collectable for years to come. We’ll also be manning the event’s food bank collection site. Bring a canned good, or other non perishable item, and we’ll delivery them to the Lititz Warwick Community Chest. Help us celebrate this new era for the local newspaper while we help our neighbors in need by replenishing the community pantry.

That area of the park will be lively, with live bands performing in a park pavilion-turned-coffee house, the park refreshment stand in full operation, and other vendors and entertainments along the walkway. The park parking lot will also host a food court.

Then venture out to Broad and Main, as Lititz’s monthly 2nd Friday will be in full force and more ice sculptures will light the way.

As we put this redesign debut to press, Lititz is bracing for another storm, set to hit us sometime Thursday. But Dawn is a veteran of this Fire & Ice thing. No worries.

“I’m not worried about the weather,” she confessed. “I never worry about the weather, because it’s Lititz. We come out whether it’s raining, snowing, sunny… It all just comes together. People rally. There are so many people behind the scenes.”

Jared McAlister of DiMartino Ice is one of the sculptors who makes the Friday night block party magical in downtown Lititz. Record Express archive photo

Jared McAlister of DiMartino Ice is one of the sculptors who makes the Friday night block party magical in downtown Lititz. Record Express archive photo

Three years ago the event trudged through two feet of snow. The following year was unseasonably warm and some of the sculpture detail melted over the course of the weekend. And then there was the bout with vandalism, which has been addressed with overnight security teams. The Lititz Sportsmen’s Association and Young Men’s Business League will be on patrol throughout the evening, and a professional security team will be set up in the park.

“The challenge this year is probably that we have grown,” said Rissmiller. “Friday night really has doubled. This year, it’s the entire park.”

And with all the recent storms, keeping the park cleaned up has been a constant chore. Enter Jerry McKonly, park superintendent, who is on duty 24/7 to make sure his park is ready to go this Friday.

“Jerry does a phenomenal job at the park,” said Dawn, reiterating that she can’t stress enough how valuable his service is to the success of the event.

So, here we are in the home stretch and Dawn’s team is busily wrapping up the few remaining loose ends.

“There are a lot of things that people don’t really know about,” she said. “For example, how a branch is hanging and how the sun will either go through it or around it, and how that will then affect the sculpture.

“But I’ve learned to just chill out. Things will be awesome.”

The awesomeness begins this Friday night, Valentine’s Day 2014, at 5 p.m.

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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