Ice rink, sculptors, fire jugglers highlight new Bethany Beach festival
Most of the year merchants in Bethany Beach are all about sun and sand, but not this January.
Starting Friday, Jan. 26, they are looking for a little cold.
That day, they kick off the first ever Fire and Ice Festival in downtown Bethany Beach.
From Jan. 26-28, downtown Bethany Beach will be transformed, with an ice skating rink, ice sculpture tour and ice sculpting demonstrations.
Ice carver Erik Cantine, of Berlin, has coordinated an army of ice carvers from Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania to present 20 ice sculptures ranging in size from 300 pounds to 1,500 pounds, set up throughout the town.
“This is the first one on the Eastern Shore,” said Cantine, who has carved sculptures competitively around the world. “I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time.”
More than 24,000 pounds of ice is scheduled to arrive on Friday, in different stages of completion. Ice will fly as chain saws, chisels, grinders and even blow torches are used to put finishing touches on the works of art in time for the opening event featuring live ice carving demonstrations at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” said Jennifer McLeod, one of the owners of The Penguin restaurant on Garfield Parkway, one of the sculpture sponsors.
All the sculptures are designed to reflect an Olympic theme and something special about the sponsoring business. For The Penguin, the sculpture will be a penguin snowboarding, a riff on their logo of a penguin surfing.
McLeod said her whole family grew up snowboarding, so they thought the design would be perfect to represent them. The whole idea came together quickly when working with the ice artist.
At least 15 sculptors and ice workers are expected to be on hand on Friday to complete and set up their works of art. Award-winning sculptors such as Peter Slavin, of “Ice Sculpture Philly,” and the LoForno family of Wilmington and Pennsylvania who own “Just Add Ice,” will be part of installing and demonstrating.
“I’m orchestrating,” said Cantine, who is also bringing in two of his brothers to help. “It takes a lot of people to make this happen.”
That's especially true since several of the works are more than one 300-pound block large and several are planned to be interactive — think ice cornhole, and an attempt to get the puck past the goalie.
So the ice part of the festival is pretty obvious, but the fire is covered, too. The chamber is planning on having fire jugglers, fire truck rides and bonfires on the beach.
All the sculptures will be lit up with LED lighting so they look like they have a fire in them as well, said Lauren Weaver, executive director of the Bethany-Fenwick area Chamber of Commerce, which put together the weekend.
There will be more to do than just watch and walk, she said. There will be parties and skating mixed in with the festivities. An ice rink, sponsored by Southern Delaware Tourism, will also be open from Friday through Sunday on Hollywood Street. All proceeds from skating and skate rentals will be given to local charities.
There will be viewing parties for the whole family and adults only parties at local restaurants and even a closing party on Sunday.
“We are very excited,” said McLeod, who grew up in Vermont and is a fan of winter sports.
She’s looking forward to unveiling their penguin sculpture Friday night. Her family got involved because it sounded like a fun way to get people together with something to do during the slow offseason time.
“It’s going to be nice,” she added.
The chamber chose the last weekend in January for what it hopes will become an annual event, because there is no football on that weekend and it’s far enough after the holidays that people should be “itching to get out of the house again,” said Amy Dalrymple, event manager for the chamber.
And even if the weather warms up a bit, that shouldn’t be a problem. Giant blocks of ice take a long time to melt, she said.
“I don’t want to give too much away,” said Weaver, about what other ice sculpture designs are planned.
Visitors are encouraged to pick up a festival passport to get it stamped by businesses and retailers, to qualify for a festival prize pack for the already planned 2019 festival.
There is a fee for skate rentals and ice skating, but touring the sculptures and watching the ice carving demonstrations is free.
For more information about the festival, go to www.fireandicede.com.