By Melissa Arnold
Now that the holidays are over and the excitement of the new year is beginning to fade, it can seem like the dull gray of winter will last forever. But there’s still plenty to enjoy in the colder months on Long Island, and Port Jefferson is pulling out all the stops to celebrate wintertime at its first Ice Festival next weekend.
Sponsored by the village’s Business Improvement District, the Ice Festival was inspired by a similar event held about nine years ago, said Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant.
“We’ve been looking at new ways to advertise the village beyond the holiday season, and one of our members, Marianna Ketcham, approached the board with the suggestion that we revisit the ice festival idea,” Garant said. “People come to Port Jeff because of its close proximity to the water — they want to visit the harbor and take a stroll. We wanted to create an upbeat, active event that would encourage people to come out in the winter as well.”
The village’s merchants were eager to jump on board, Garant said, with special event sales. The highly anticipated Mac and Cheese Crawl sold out weeks ago, but those lucky enough to get tickets will enjoy hot and cheesy pasta samples from 18 different eateries. Some will also offer mac and cheese for purchase throughout the weekend.
“I hope all those who come to visit and shop, realize how much we appreciate their support toward small businesses on Main Street USA,” said Port Jeff BID interim president, Roger Rutherford. “Make sure you find time to come down Port for the Ice Festival to take part in the many different festivities.”
Hop on a horse-drawn carriage and enjoy the village’s icy blue lights. Take part in some marshmallow toasting at the corner of Main and E. Broadway and meet costumed characters including your favorite ice princesses and snow friends. Then warm up with some ice skating at the RINX at Harborfront Park. Periodically throughout each day, professional skaters will entertain and share their expertise with live demonstrations.
Of course, no ice festival would be complete without an ice sculpture or two, but Port Jefferson isn’t stopping there. They’ve invited New York’s only certified master ice carver, Richard Daly of Ice Memories Inc., to create dozens of brilliant, backlit works of art for the festival.
Each participating business will have an ice sculpture on their property with a theme they’ve chosen themselves. Keep an eye out for Baby Yoda, ice skates, a giant slice of toast and more.
Visitors will also have the chance to watch Daly work. He’ll do multiple live carvings throughout the weekend, including a four-person sleigh and a 3,000-pound throne that you can actually climb on (carefully!) for pictures. Don’t be surprised if he makes it look easy — the Mastic Beach resident earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2013 as the world’s fastest ice carver. To break the record, he created 60 sculptures in just two hours, 52 minutes and 12 seconds using 18,000 pounds of ice.
“The work that Rich does is just beautiful, and the sculptures will be incredible all lit up,” said Port Jefferson trustee Kathianne Snaden. “It’s unbelievable how he can create these complex works of art from a block of ice.”
Daly carved his first ice sculpture while in culinary school at Johnson and Wales University. He developed an immediate passion for the craft and was competing on a national level just six months later. “What’s not to like about getting to play with a chainsaw and a blowtorch?” joked Daly. “I can’t even tell you how many sculptures I’ve done in a year. I’ve lost count.”
Each sculpture for the Ice Festival will begin with a sketch. They’ll be carved from 300-pound blocks of crystal clear ice that are fused together by adding a little water. Daly is bringing 25,000 pounds of ice with him for the weekend, he said.
“I’m looking forward to doing the live carving demonstrations,” he added. “It’s fun to be able to talk with people and answer questions while I work.”
Ideally, the village is hoping for seasonally chilly weather and even some snow for the festival. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be postponed until the weekend of Feb. 22.
“It can be challenging to be innovative with our events, especially in colder weather, but the Ice Festival really captures the season,” said Barbara Ransome, director of operations for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a great opportunity to increase foot traffic in the area and show everyone that Port Jeff is a great place to be regardless of the time of year.”
Port Jefferson’s Ice Festival will be held throughout the village on Saturday, Feb. 8 and Sunday, Feb. 9 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Join them for a weekend of winter fun! For further information, call 631-476-2363 or visit www.portjeffbid.com/ice-festival.