Lititz Fire & Ice Festival
By Ann Mead Ash
After seven consecutive years of celebration, the Lititz Fire and Ice Festival, held each President's Day weekend, shows no signs of cooling off. In fact, the brainchild of former downtown Lititz business owners Dawn Rissmiller and Tammy Boltz is really starting to sizzle.
The festival, which will be held from Friday, Feb. 15, through Sunday, Feb. 17, combines the crystalline ice creations of Ernie DiMartino from Jeannette, Pa., with spicy chili dishes prepared by 20 area chefs, each vying for a coveted prize while working to raise funds for a nonprofit organization of his or her choice. A winter carnival and dodgeball tournament have been added to the events to round out the weekend.
DiMartino and his crew of three or four arrive on Thursday and begin piling blocks of ice on top of one another to solidify for carving. Smaller statues arrive already carved, but the larger statues that Rissmiller calls "giants" are carved live on Friday evening when the block party begins at 5 p.m. "It's both a block party and a block of ice party," laughed Rissmiller, referring to the dual nature of the event.
Since the Friday night portion has grown substantially over the last few years (Rissmiller cites exceptional weather as the reason crowds numbering in the thousands have gathered in the downtown area), the ice sculpture portion of the celebration will move to Lititz Springs Park, 18 N. Broad St., in 2013. The idea of expanding to encompass the park dates back to the DiMartino Ice Company's first visit to the town, when they suggested that the festival take place on Main and Broad along with the park. "When I would think of the park, I would think of the lights being out and all these ice sculptures illuminating the park," said Rissmiller. "And that's what we're doing. We will illuminate the ice from the bottom up."
In addition to live ice carving, the block party includes entertainment by a fire eater, international food vendors along with traditional Lancaster County fare, games, and a marshmallow roast.
The chili cook-off will be held at Warwick High School, 301 W. Orange St., along with the winter carnival. Both events will run from 11 to 3. Like the block party, the chili cook-off has expanded over the years, outgrowing two downtown venues before moving to the high school a few years ago. "We will serve up to 1,500 samples of chili," on Saturday, noted Rissmiller. Chefs and their crews will compete for a variety of prizes, including the Five Alarm trophy, chosen by a representative of the local fire company, and the Mayor's Choice. A Team Spirit Trophy and the People's Choice Trophy, which is awarded based on the chili that raised the most money for a given charity, will also be awarded.
While chili simmers in one room, children will have the opportunity to enjoy games, inflatables, and other activities, such as face painting.
This year, on Saturday night, a free family movie will be show at 7 p.m. in the New Towne Center at Luther Acres, 600 E. Main St., as part of the festival.
On Sunday, organizers have added a dodgeball tournament, which is free to spectators, beginning at 1 p.m., with games at both Warwick High School and Middle School. The event will be open to teams of middle and high school students that have registered beforehand. "(The team members) can get sponsors and dress up in funky costumes," explained Rissmiller, who said the event especially appeals to members of the more than 50 members of the Lititz Leo Club who organize the Fire and Ice Festival along with her and Boltz. A basket bingo is also planned for Sunday afternoon.
Rissmiller believes this year's festival, the eighth annual, will be bigger and better than before. "There is nothing like (the festival)," she said. "The ice carvings are unbelievable. They are exquisite." She is dedicated to continuing to improve the event in the future as well. "I live in Lititz, so I have a passion to keep this going," she said.
Want to know more about what's going on in Pennsylvania? Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter for upcoming events, attractions and more.