Sizzle & Chill

By , on February 21, 2018

New format pleases 13th annual Fire & Ice attendees

The star of Friday’s Fire & Ice event is the live ice carvings. Photo Dennis Bicksler

One thing the Lititz community tends to prove again and again is it knows how to entertain.

And, as in the case of the 13th annual Fire & Ice fest, Lititz tends to get things right by listening, learning, and even applying trial-and-error reasoning to determine when it’s right.

For instance, just as Fire & Ice peaked in recent years — as an estimated 40,000 visitors convened in downtown Lititz beginning with Friday’s “ice” portion of the event which pushed the festival out of Lititz Springs Park and literally onto Broad Street — the event this year faced cancellation because the original organizers left.

But, not only did Lititz step up to save the festival, the organizing committee improved the Friday night kick-off by focusing more on food and businesses.

To do that, it shifted the bulk of the ice sculpture displays out of Lititz Springs Park and onto the closed-to-traffic Broad and Main streets downtown.

Holly DeKarske, executive director of Venture Lititz, said the change was made for a few reasons,.

“One, Venture Lititz is a Main Street Program and our mission is the economic vitality of our community,” she said. “The festival started as a way to get folks into town during the “retail dead months” January, February and March, and was started by a group of retailers.”

There’s always been ice, but this year there was some added fire from this pyrotechnic display at the pond near the entrance to Lititz Springs Park. Photo by Dick Wanner

Fire & Ice is among many other area ice festivals started for the same reason.

“Lititz’s event had just moved and morphed over the years, slowly ending up mostly in the park,” she said. “I can tell you that Fire & Ice weekend has always been a big weekend for merchants, but the feedback I have gotten so far, is that it was one of their biggest to date, so the move back to the streets was a positive for the merchants.”

An informal poll question on the Record Express’ Facebook page drew an enlightened discussion on the merits of the new format, which had a reach on the social media page of more than 3,500 and compelled 190 reactions by Tuesday morning.

The overwhelming majority, about 98 percent of respondents, favored the new format.

Despite atypical February weather Friday – temps hit close to 60 with early rain then sustained winds around the start of the “ice” portion of the event at 5 p.m. – and significant snow on Saturday evening , Lititz Police reported that the overall crowd size about matched those of last year when the event benefit from mild weather.

Vendors reported that visitors came in droves across several days to explore the downtown and take part a multitude of festivities the fundraiser had to offer.

From the huge fireballs that exploded over the duck pond in the Lititz Springs Park Friday night to the freezing cold sculptures that adorned the downtown streets, the fest truly represented both ends of the thermometer.

While some lamented the loss of a fully packed park of ice sculptures, Kent Herzer, a volunteer at the Lititz Caboose Museum reported the museum, which is actually in the Lititz Springs Park, experienced full volume.

It welcomed more than 2,000 total visitors Friday through Sunday during the Fire and Ice Festival.

“The caboose museum has been there 17 years, and this was our busiest weekend on record,” he said. “For comparison, we average between 50-80 visitors on Saturdays during peak summer months.”

As Herzer noted, it wasn’t hard last weekend to see that Fire & Ice was a smash success.

Vendors and guests were quick to point out that whether it was to grab a bite to eat, take in the sights, enjoy the free music, or perhaps do some shopping, there was truly something for everyone.

“As a new merchant to Main Street this year, we were overcome with happiness to see so many people visit our shop and interact with all of our partner artisans,” said Jill Rebuck, owner of the Purple Robin Reserve.

Ali Schoenberger, owner of Spotted Owl Boutique, agreed.

“Myself as well as other merchants are so grateful to the planning committee and volunteers for the hours of hard work and attention to detail that made for such a great event,” she said.

Joseph DeSimone owner of Olio, 41 S. Broad St. said the restaurant was “crazy busy both Friday night and Saturday. An amazing event.”

Despite the huge turnout throughout the downtown, Lititz Borough Police Chief Kerry Nye reported no incidents.

“We had no police incidents related to the Fire and Ice,” Nye said. We did have several EMS calls on Saturday from “out of town” people but that is to be expected,” he said. “In my opinion it could not have gone any better.”

Nye praised the organizer’s diligence and hard work.

“There was great pre-planning on behalf of Venture Lititz,” Nye said.

Nye also wanted to thank the local first responders.

“Warwick EMS had 3 units assigned to the event and the Lititz Fire Company had a crew on stand-by at their station for the Friday night event,” he said.

Several groups of admirers lingered downtown as late as 10 p.m. on Sunday. Many were families with children who decided to stay up late to take advantage of having Presidents’ Day holiday off from school on Monday. It was one last chance to get their photo taken next to those shiny beautiful works of art before they melted away.

Even with several food trucks, lines formed early Friday in restaurants such as The Sutter Inn, JoBoys, and Appalachian Brewing Co. — judging by the sizes of the crowds, it was a win-win for everyone involved, including the downtown retailers, many of which extended their hours to accommodate the masses.

Responses from attendees on the Record Express page offered some suggestions to improve the event, such as adding a bus shuttle from Warwick High School parking lot.

Sheila Hough, Fire & Ice vendor coordinator, recapped this year’s event, noting the entry fee was lowered from $150 and $100 for profit and non-profits respectively, to $50 for a for-profit business and no charge for non-profits.

“The vendors were extremely pleased,” she said as the committee “took a more hands-on approach and really tried to connect with each and every Vendor to make sure their specific needs were met and their presence appreciated.”

Hough said our Clubs’ profit was “not as high on the priority list as providing a profitable and pleasurable experience for both participants and shoppers.”

The results appeared obvious.

“I heard nothing but positive feedback regarding the look and feel of the event, compared to previous years,” she said.

The vast majority of folks responding on Facebook echoed Hough’s observations.

Shelly Hamilton Chmil “loved the new set up!”

“Thanks to everyone that worked hard to make this happen,” she posted. “ While the ice sculptures in the past looked pretty around the park, it was often slippery. This set up was perfect.”

Nick Pypiak also gave praise to the organizers and applauded the new format.

“We Liked that it was spread out so you can see more through your walk,” he said.

Lisa Johnson Atkins expressed a view shared by many who liked the coordination of the food truck on Saturday.

“I prefer to visit both the shops and sculptures, so it was perfect to put the sculptures in town. Also really loved having the food trucks over on the street by themselves,” she said. “There was plenty of room for everyone when we were there. We were very happy to stay out of the park because it can get muddy and messy, and it is hard to get our kids out of there once we get down by the playground. Great improvements.”

Hough, who noted the Fire & Ice committee is committed to ensuring no duplication of vendor types, beamed with hometown pride as “no other community in this area comes together like Lititz for an event such as this.”

“(It’s) a very warm, welcoming, friendly atmosphere, which also draws crowds from surrounding towns and even states,” she said. “One quote I heard, from a resident, was “we live in Norman Rockwellville and love it.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *