Fire & Ice 2019; bright, big & bold

By on January 16, 2019

If there is one thing that last year’s Lititz Fire & Ice proved, it’s that Lititz loves its wintertime festival.

There may have been a brief time in 2018 when there were questions if the tradition would be back for its 13th year. But Lititz sponsors rose to the occasion, and the show went on. This year’s 14th annual Lititz Fire & Ice event is set for Feb. 15-16.

The fiery part will feature the Chili Cook-Off, fireworks and food trucks serving hot fare, while the icy fun is highlighted by a display of ice sculptures in downtown Lititz.

Once again, Lititz Fire & Ice is being organized by Holly DeKarske, executive director of Venture Lititz. DeKarske went through a bit of a baptism of fire and ice last year. It was her first time coordinating the popular event. It was a big success.

Children gather at the finished ice castle, glowing purple in the dusk.

This year, DeKarske plans to take the lessons from the 2018 festival and make 2019 even better. Some of those lessons are very practical observations based on comments from festival-goers.

Turns out that safety and more bathrooms were at the top of the list.

“We had streets closed on Friday, but this year, we will have the streets closed on Saturday too. It’s just much safer for all the people, families, kids to have the streets closed during the day,” says DeKarske.

By closing the streets, there will be better availability of staging areas, so that this year’s festival will be a two-day music event. There will also be more room for food stands, so that people can stroll around more safely…eating, listening to music, and checking out the ice sculptures. Another thing everyone agreed on is that more toilets were needed. The Fire & Ice committee had already added more port-a-potties last year, but feedback indicated that even more were needed to handle the big crowd.

With the huge crowd comes the need for more handicapped parking and for parking areas for visitors. There will be shuttles provided to get to the festival from off-site parking areas.

“Lititz Fire & Ice was always promoted as a four-day event. Technically is still is, since stores are open, and the ice sculptures are still up, weather permitting, through the President’s Day holiday,” says DeKarske. “But since scheduled events are only on Friday and Saturday, we are promoting it more that way. It’s really more two days, even though everyone can still come to town and see the ice all weekend.”

Promotion is a key improvement for Lititz Fire & Ice. For a time, there were issues with using the previous website address. Now, organizers have access to the website address and will be able to post events all in one easy-to-access place. Anyone who wants information will be able to check it out at or on the Facebook page for Lititz Fire & Ice.

“This is the kind of event that needs lots of people working together,” says DeKarske. “With all our sponsors, we can pull everything together.” Stray Production Services has been named as the Presenting Sponsor, which DeKarske calls a “no brainer.” 

“They have helped elevate this event above other ice festivals, and it was just appropriate to name them as the Presenting Sponsor. Chris and Melody Strayer are incredible assets to Lititz, their passion for community shows in everything they do, and we are lucky to have them be a part of our event,” says DeKarske. “They are a partner in planning and love our Lititz community.”
For 2019, Pyrotek Special Effect will be back with their pyrotechnics displays on Friday. Everyone was thrilled by the exciting fiery displays and organizers are happy to have them back.

Of course, the ice sculptures are among the main attractions for Lititz Fire & Ice. As they have done since the festival started 14 years ago, DiMartino Ice Company will be creating shimmering ice sculptures along Broad and Main Street. In the past, there have been giant thrones, seafaring starfish, cuddly dogs, sparkling butterflies and even huge bottles of Listerine. For 2019, there will be more than 50 works of icy art lining the streets, and crowds usually gather at Lititz Mutual Insurance for the grand ice sculpture, as well as locations along Main and Broad.

The sculptures are displayed through Monday, as long as temperatures allow. The “Ice” part of Lititz Fire & Ice begins on Friday, Feb. 15 with the Friday Night Block Party that is held from 5 to 9 p.m. The 14th annual Lititz Fire & Ice kicks off with a rollicking downtown party, with ice sculptures, shimmering lights, dramatic pyrotechnics, restaurants, shopping and food trucks. The live-music stage is sponsored by LOA Orthodontics with entertainment supported by Wilbur Chocolate and Red Rose Cabinetry.

Then on Saturday, Feb. 16, the Chili Cook-Off and Vendor Fair will be held at Warwick High School from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dozens of chili chefs will raise funds for charitable organizations with recipes that include everything from spicy peppers to game meat to chocolate, with chili-tasters voting for their favorites. The Chili Cook-Off is being organized by Lititz Police Chief Kerry Nye.
Admission buttons are required for entry into the chili event. Buttons are $10 for adult admission and $5 for children under 12, if they want to sample chili. Admission buttons are available for purchase at Stauffers of Kissel Hill in Lititz, Bombergers, Dosie Dough in Lititz and Aaron’s Books. 

The indoor Carnival for kids at the high school features food, activities, inflatables, games, contests, face painting and more. Unlimited play wristbands are $10, with ticket prices ranging from $2.50 to $6. The free Vendor Fair, also at the high school, features a wide variety of local vendors and businesses showcasing their products and services. One change organizers are planning for Lititz Fire & Ice is moving some of the activity out of Lititz Springs Park, and putting the emphasis back on Main and Broad Streets.

“We will be utilizing the front area of the park around the duck pond and visitors center,” says DeKarske. “In previous years, the park was very pretty, but with the recent flooding, we want to be careful to protect the park from damage. It’s still very muddy, and having crowds walk through it might completely destroy it.”

Getting the ice sculptures back in front of the businesses is also a big help to local businesses sponsoring the festival. It gets people into shops at one of the slowest shopping periods of the year. Back when the Lititz Fire & Ice was first conceived, supporting local businesses was the original goal of drawing people into town for a wintry festival.

“I learned a lot from the Lititz Fire & Ice last year, and one of the things that makes all the difference is having so many great sponsors. We couldn’t do this without them,” says DeKarske.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the Record Express. She can be reached at 

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