The ‘Fire’ still burns

By on February 14, 2018

Fire & Ice opens Friday night under new leadership

Steve Parson of DiMartino Ice Company carves a majestic ice castle for Fire & Ice. Live carving Friday night in downtown Lititz kicks off a weekend of activities.

For Holly DeKarske, this year’s Fire & Ice on Feb. 16-19 promises to be a baptism of fire… and of ice.

As executive director of Venture Lititz, DeKarske has inherited the huge four-day winter festival that brings in as many as 40,000 visitors.

As the festival marks its 13th year, it will be DeKarske’s first year at Lititz’s Fire & Ice festival. She has never attended the festival before. She has only lived in Lititz for five months and became Venture Lititz director in September.

That’s around the time when Venture Lititz and the Lion’s Club took control of the festival that for a brief moment looked as if it was in peril. Previous organizers had decided not to hold the festival. But Lititz wasn’t about to let that happen.

Children gather at the finished ice castle, glowing purple in the dusk. Lighting by Stray Productions, of Lititz, adds to the festive Friday night atmosphere for Fire & Ice.

“Everyone loves the Fire & Ice festival. We decided that that show must go on, and it will,” says DeKarske.

While it may be DeKarske’s first Lititz festival, it’s not her first time organizing a winter festival or community events. Before coming to Lititz, she worked in economic and community Development for the City of York. Years ago, she worked on the committee for the Chambersburg IceFest, which started in 2002. That just happens to be the festival that inspired the original organizers of the Lititz Fire & Ice Festival.

The two festivals even share the same company to create the shimmering ice sculptors. That would be DiMartino Ice Company, located in Jeannette, Pa. Each year, DiMartino’s ice artists hand crafts an array of ice sculptures at that will be on display starting Friday evening at 5 p.m.

“We will have more ice sculptures than ever,” says DeKarske. “We wanted to get back to the basics of what the festival is all about-ice sculptures. They will mostly be along East Main Street and Broad Street. So far, we are expecting to have about 66 in total, including the several larger sculptors being carved that night.”

The downtown merchants appreciate having the sculptures along the downtown streets and many sponsor them. On a chilly winter night, patrons like to admire the sculptures and stop inside stores to shop and warm up. That’s the way it was in the beginning, and that’s how Venture Lititz and Lititz Lions want to see it continue.

In recent years, the ice festival had extended well into Lititz Springs Park, but this year, the Fire & Ice Festival will only be located at the entrance of the park. Ice sculptures will line the streets and the front of the park, accentuated by elaborate light displays set up by Stray Productions. There is a surprise planned for that location, and it has more to do with fire than with ice.

“We just found out that Pyrotek Special Effects will be doing a fireworks display on Friday night,” says DeKarske. “It should be pretty spectacular.”

In the past, the Fire & Ice Festival had lots of booths and concessions lined up on Main Street. The new and improved festival eliminates some of the stands that were more commercialized, like ones for home improvements.

The focus will be on food.

“That’s what the people want,” says DeKarske, noting that local restaurants and pubs will be open for a variety of food and drink.

There will also be more than two dozen food concession stands lining the streets, so hungry ice sculpture admirers can have sustenance. On Friday, the trucks will line Main and Broad Streets. On Saturday, they will be located in the BB&T parking lot next to North Broad and across from the park.

What’s to eat? The food trucks will offer everything from popcorn to french fries to barbecue, including Pop’s Original, The Smith Homestead, Brewster’s Bar-B-Que, Uncle Paul’s Stuffed Pretzels, Bountiful Feast, Mad Dash, Shorty’s Funnel Cakes, Thoze Guys Food Truck, The Perk Up Truck, Bucky’s Kettle Corn, Gourmand Artisan Street Food, Baron Von Schwein, Brickers Famous French Fries, Dutch Country Concessions, Sugar Whipped, Lancaster Burger Company, Cobs Kettle Corn, Capt Crab, The Cow and The Curd, Helmut’s Austrian Strudel, Sprout Stream by Sven’s Cafe, and Fink’s French Fries.

On Saturday, the fire part of the festival begins at Warwick High School with the tasty Chili Cook-Off from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This year there will not be celebrity judges. The winners will all be people’s choice, with funds the various charities that chefs are supporting. There will be 20 different chili recipes and the people get to pick the winners.

To participate in the Chili Cook-Off as a taster and judge, tickets are $10 adult admission and $5 for children under 12, if they want to sample chili. Admission buttons can be purchased at Stauffer’s of Kissel Hill in Lititz, Bombergers, Dosie Dough and Aaron’s Books, and at the high school during the event. There is a limit of 1,500 admission buttons sold for the event.

Also at the high school, the indoor winter carnival will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with food, activities, face painting, coloring and craft stations, inflatables, games and contests. Unlimited play wristbands are $10, one ticket is 50 cents, five tickets $2.50 and 15 are $6.00. Next door at the high school, there will be a Vendor Fair with local vendors and businesses showcasing their products and services.

“We’re pretty excited that the Fire & Ice Festival is still on,” says DeKarske. “Everyone has pulled together. DiMartino Ice is back. They love doing this event and the community loves to watch them carving the sculptures.”

Lititz Borough Police Chief Kerry Nye, agrees, noting, “Some people have been concerned that the Fire & Ice Festival wouldn’t be back, but it will.”

There may be new organizers. There may be a new logo. There may be a new website at lititzfireandice.com. But the Lititz wants its Fire & Ice Festival.

After years of variable weather — ranging from warm temperatures that melted the sculptures to a super deep snowfall to frigid temperatures — DeKarske has a request to the “fire and ice gods.”

“I am hoping for clear skies and cold temperatures, not too cold. And no ugly stuff,” she says. “That would be my dream weather for my first Lititz Fire & Ice Festival.”

Laura Knowles is a freelance reporter who covers the Warwick School Board beat for the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback at lknowles21@gmail.com.

 

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