Regional ice festivals offer escape from winter doldrums

Vanessa Orr

What do you do when the holidays are over, and you’re looking at two more months of ice and snow? You make the most of it!

January and February are the perfect times for ice festivals because it’s a sure thing that the weather will cooperate — especially if you like it cold. There are a number of festivals in Pennsylvania and Maryland for those looking for ice-filled fun.

Chambersburg, Pa., will be hosting its 15th IceFest this year Jan. 26–29. The event, sponsored by M&T Bank, includes ice carving, a doublewide ice slide, the Icing on the Cake contest, the Polar Dunk Plunge, and the Snowfall Ball. It attracts more than 10,000 people to the city.

“On Thursday and Friday nights, we’ll have carvers using chainsaws and torches — the tools of the trade — to create giant ice sculptures,” said IceFest co-chair Penny Shaul, who estimates that there will be about 70 ice sculptures of various sizes on display. “The giant sculptures will be lit by LED lights, which make them really magical to see at night.”

Chambersburg IceFest

While the event is a favorite of locals, almost half of the crowd is made up of visitors, including those arriving on tour buses from as far away as New Jersey. Not only do they enjoy watching the carving and warming up with a hot meal as part of the chili cook-off, but they also appreciate the other amenities that the town has to offer.

“There is truly something to interest everybody here,” said Shaul, who added that Chambersburg has a vibrant arts scene that is showcased during IceFest. “Many of our local businesses and organizations put together their own events to coordinate with the festival because it’s such a big draw.”

If you’re ready for some ice-fueled excitement, here are some options:

JANUARY

Jan. 13–14, Fire and Ice Fest, Reading, Pa.

Indoor and outdoor activities include ice carving, fire performers, a chili cook-off, an ice wine bar, live bands, and food trucks.

Jan. 13–15, 22nd annual Fire and Ice Festival, Somerset, Pa.

This year’s theme is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The event features food vendors, ice sculpting, a beer, wine, and spirits tent featuring local libations, the Children’s Center, and a LEGO building competition.

Jan. 26–29, IceFest ‘17, Chambersburg, Pa.

See story above.

FEBRUARY

Feb. 3–26, Crystal Cabin Fever, Lakeville, Pa., in the Pocono Mountains area

The Butler, Pa., Carved in Ice festival lives up to its name with ice sculptures that last through winter.

Features interactive ice display made from more than 100 tons of ice. Includes 50-foot dual-run ice slide, ice carving demonstrations, and more entertainment. Open Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

Feb. 4, February First Saturday: Fire in Ice, Frederick, Md.

Enjoy more than 50 ice sculptures, fire dancers, fire pits featuring s’more stations and hot chocolate, and an ice playground in downtown Frederick.

Feb. 4, IceFest, Sykesville, Md.

Returning for the second year, the winter festival features ice sculptures, an ice skating rink, an ice playground, and a visit from a Maryland Zoo penguin to downtown’s Main Street.

Feb. 11, Butler Carved in Ice, Butler, Pa.

The second annual ice festival and chili cook-off includes blocks of ice transformed into one-of-a-kind works of art displayed in Diamond Park until winter’s end. Last year’s special guests included live human versions of Anna, Elsa, and Olaf from Frozen.

Feb. 17–20, Lititz Fire and Ice Festival, Lititz, Pa.

Now in its 12th year, the festival includes 50-plus ice sculptures, the Winter Wonderland carnival, a downtown block party, a vendor fair, Party in the Park, and a chili cook-off featuring more than 30,000 ounces of chili in support of more than 25 charities.

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