Fire & Ice fans flock to Lititz

By on February 20, 2019

A spellbound crowd gathered Friday evening around a cordoned-off lot near the former Wilbur Chocolate plant as two chainsaw-wielding men, wearing long black butcher’s aprons and safety goggles, sawed into a 6-foot tall block of ice.

Dave DiFloria and Ernie DiMartino, covered in shiny ice chips, were busy creating an interactive icy elf, keeping an empty place where his face should be.

The idea was for folks to put their face above the elf’s shoulders and have a photo taken, to see what they’d look like if they’d be an elf made of ice. The DiMartino family company, from Jennette, near Pittsburgh, were the stars once again of the 14th annual Lititz Fire & Ice event held last weekend along the streets and a section of the park.

While the festival featured a variety of food, music, pyrotechnics, and atmosphere, the 75 fanciful ice sculptures placed throughout the town helped circulate the large crowd. The tall ice elf would take the two about 90 minutes to complete, DiFloria said.

Jaren McAlister, a member of the DiMartino Ice Company family, was one of the ice sculptors at Friday night’s Fire & Ice festival. The company trucked 60 completed sculptures from their plant in Jeanette, Pa., near Pittsburg, to Lititz for the festival. They also brought along enough ice to carve 15 more sculptures on site.

How long it would last depended on the weather.

“In this business, the sun is our enemy,” DiFloria said. “We know it’s temporary art, so we take a lot of pictures.” The high temperature hit 63 degrees Friday afternoon, a fact not lost on the DiMartino family.

“We brought a lot of dry ice with us and some of the sculptures we’ll cover up tonight,” DiFloria said Friday afternoon. “We prefer temperatures in the ‘teens and low 20s, and cloudy, but temperature-wise, this could have been worse; it will be okay.”

Joe DiMartino adds some details to a winger sculptue at Friday night’s Fire & Ice festival.

DiFloria said his crew has worked in temperatures of nine-below zero. Sponsors of the event give the DiMartinos and their specialty carvers ideas of the type of sculptures they’d like, then graphics are drawn before the slicing and dicing begins.

“It’s a family business and it is a cool thing to do,” DiFloria said. “I had been in retail for several years, but with this, you get to travel all over the state and meet people, so it’s a lot of fun. “It does take a lot of practice and a lot of observing and everybody learns at different speeds and everybody does it differently, too,” DiFloria said of his art.

Phyllis and Keith Stuckey of Brownstown watched the ice carvers work as they ate cinnamon-covered soft pretzels.

“These ice sculptures are really neat, but a few seem to be melting a bit,” said Phyllis Stuckey.

Examples of the ice sculptor’s art on display at the Lititz Fire & Ice festival Friday night.

 

This bull sculpture created its own reflecting pool Friday night at the Lititz Fire & Ice festival.

 

Examples of the ice sculptor’s art on display at the Lititz Fire & Ice festival Friday night.

 

The sculpture of a newspaper boy and his dog was sponsored by the Lititz Record Express.

 

 

While visitors wore coats and hats, nobody was shivering, and the ice sculptures, bathed in colored lights, couldn’t hold off a few melting drops.

“It’s been fun to walk through the town,” Keith Stuckey said. “We wanted to get acquainted with Lititz and thought this would be a good night.” Sabrina Patterson of Lititz and her son, Justin, 18, stopped for some “GnawJaw” bacon on a stick before heading into the park.

“This is our first time here,” Sabrina said. “We’ve always wanted to come to the festival but didn’t have the time, but tonight, it’s not too cold, so we’re here. It’s great to see the sculptures and it’s wonderful what this is doing for the community.”

“I like it already,” Justin added.

Fire & Ice was also a first for Robert and Nancy Stull of Lancaster.

Norah and Jack Weaver of Lititz arrived early for Friday’s ice sculpture unveilings and carvings along Broad Street and in Lititz Springs Park.

“The whole thing is impressive and what impresses me most is the skill of the guys who are carving the ice,” Nancy said. “I like the way the sculptures are displayed with the lights.”

The Stulls took advantage of the shuttle into town, which came from Kissel Hill Elementary School. The town was packed, with the Main Street full of people shoulder-to-shoulder as mild weather enticed people to the festival. Open parking spots quickly filled.

“That was a real help to us,” Nancy Stull said, referring to the shuttle. Shepherding her family though the crowds, Caroline Eager of Lancaster said it was the first time they had come to the Fire & Ice event. Eager had another word for the overflowing streets and sidewalks: “It’s a madhouse,” she said. Countless cell phones were aimed at ice sculptures Friday as visitors tried to capture the fleeting beauty of the pieces.

Members and leadersof Lititz Boy Scout Troop 142 provided all the ingredients for DIY s’mores at the Lititz Fire & Ice festival.

Phyllis and Gary Ream of Millersville were taking pictures of a valentine-shaped sculpture in front of Renewal Kombucha.

“It looks like it has wings on either side of it and that’s why I like it,” Phyllis Ream said. “This is our first time here and we decided to come because it’s warm this evening.” While plenty of dog owners brought their four-legged family members along for a walk, Leann Stormfeltz of Manheim could have been the only visitor cradling her cat.

Her cat, a rescue named Shadow, was on a harness and was held in Leann’s arms for the duration of their visit. Shadow doesn’t mind loud, crowded outings, Stormfeltz said.

“I feel it might be a little too crowded tonight, though,” Stormfeltz said. “It would help if they could make the festival a few days longer. But the sculptures are cool and they have a lot of them.” Sue Frick of Lancaster brought her son, Robert Frick, and grandson, Kayden, six, to the festival.

“I’ve been here before, but it’s got a lot bigger,” Sue Frick said. “We were just looking at the ducks on the pond and thought it was neat that we found this ice carving of a duck.” “It’s done so well it looks as if it’s going to fly away,” said Robert Frick, of the ice duck.

“We’re going to look at more ice sculptures and then stop at the candy store before we leave,” Sue said.

Downtown Lititz was incredibly packed Friday night. This shoulder-to-shoulder crowd was standing at the edge of the Lititz Springs Park pond, waiting for fire show that erupted every fifteen minutes or so.

The community feel of the event included Wilbur Chocolate selling hot cocoa with proceeds going to the Lititz Warwick Community Chest, and Boy Scout Troop 44 of Lititz offering free made-on-the-spot funnel cakes. Scouts committee member Steve Kutcher said the funnel cake booth has been a fixture of the festival since its inception.

“We were one of the first street vendors and we’ve been doing it ever since,” Kutcher said. “Everyone is a volunteer. We give the funnel cakes away, but people give donations and it ends up being one of our biggest fund-raisers.”

As Kutcher poured batter into four gas-fired pots filled with bubbling oil, he said it takes about a minute to fry a funnel cake.

“Today and tomorrow, we’ll make 900 to 1,000 funnel cakes,” Kutcher said. One of the icy highlights was the Luther Acres-sponsored king-sized ice throne situated at the entrance of the park.

Nathan Thomas and his son Jonny, 11, of Mount Joy, came to the festival looking for something to do since the females of the family were on a trip. After taking a turn on the ice throne, Jonny, a student at Manheim Christian, said it was wet, even though a plastic mat was part of the seating arrangement.

“I like the music and the ice sculptures,” Jonny said.

“This is fun,” said dad Nathan Thomas. “There are a lot of people and everybody is in a good mood and having a good time. We also had some good food.”

That included three of the four food groups; funnel cakes, french fries, and soft pretzels. In the park, Barth Bailey of Lititz took a picture of his wife, Linda, standing by icy double hearts, bathed in a red light.

“It’s warm tonight, the sculptures are gorgeous, and this is fun — and red is my favorite color,” Linda Bailey said, explaining her photo shoot. “We couldn’t make the festival last year because we were in India, on a mission trip. “I like the subjects of the sculptures this year; they’re really unique. This is probably the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen in Lititz &tstr; and everybody is behaving,” Linda said.

The firey display at the Lititz Springs Park pond was a crows pleaser.

The Baileys were watching the light and pyrotechnic show coordinated by Stray Production Services and Pyrotek Special Effects. While the ice sculptures attracted the shutterbugs, fire bursts over the pond drew applause from the enthusiastic crowd.

“We always enjoy the fire and ice festival, although it’s been a few years since we’ve been here,” Barth Bailey said. “It seems they’ve really expanded it and it’s all positive changes. It’s great to see how the community comes alive.”

Coming from York, Michael Pessognelli and his mother, Michelle Pessognelli, originally from Montreal, were pleased with Lititz as much as they were with the Fire & Ice event.

“It’s wonderful here,” Michelle said. “I’m really enjoying this and I’ll be back again.”

“We’re coming back when they don’t have this (the festival) so we can get into the shops,” Michael said. “It’s great and they have so many unique shops. The weather is enjoyable, the shuttle worked out well for us, and now we’re looking for food &tstr; something with a short line.

“I also like to watch them make the ice carvings,” Michael said. “That’s a real treat.”

Marylouise Sholly is a Lititz Record correspondent. 

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