“It’s going to be a pretty cool vibe,” said Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce (BFACC) Executive Director Lauren Weaver about this weekend’s second annual Fire & Ice Festival.
Pun intended? Maybe. The family-friendly event is packed full of winter festivities, including a live ice-sculpture demonstration, ice skating rink and culinary showcase.
“It’s really a business-run event,” said Weaver. “This year, we have the treasure hunt. It’s an opportunity to go around and get your map stamped from the different participating businesses, and then it qualifies them for a full Fire & Ice package next year.”
For a chance to win a 2020 Fire & Ice Festival prize pack, which includes a one-night stay at Bethany Beach Ocean Suites or the Holiday Inn Express (both presenting sponsors of the event), festivalgoers can stop by the Bethany Beach Ocean Suites tent on the bandstand to pick up a festival treasure hunt map. Then, from 4 to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, participants can visit each stop on the map for a stamp.
Once the treasure hunt is completed, the completed map can be dropped off at the Bethany Beach Ocean Suites tent at any time before 1 p.m. on Sunday to enter the contest. A winner will be announced on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the bandstand.
The festival will open on Friday, Jan. 25, at the Southern Delaware Tourism Ice Rink, which will be located this year on the basketball court next to the Town playground, at the corner of Garfield Parkway and Pennsylvania Avenue. A $5 admission fee covers skate rental and 30 minutes on the synthetic ice rink. The rink will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Rink proceeds from the weekend will benefit the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to providing exceptional hospital and respite housing services to critically ill children and their families.
A live radio broadcast from 97.1—The Wave will take place Friday, from 2 to 4 p.m., encouraging people to swing into town and check out the 4 o’clock unveiling.
A self-guided sculpture tour, featuring more than 15 ice sculptures with an “Under the Sea” theme, will kick off Friday at 4 p.m. Interactive sculptures, such as those of supporting sponsors Beazer Homes and K. Hovnanian Homes, will provide photo opportunities, and chances to win prizes.
“We have a new group of ice sculptors,” added Weaver. “We have an organization called Ice Lab, where they have artists that this is their only job. They do the Inner Harbor Festival; they run full ice festivals.
“We’re excited to step up the game, and the product and presentation. I think everyone is going to be really happy with the results.”
Those who attend Saturday will also be able to experience an oyster demonstration by the Center for the Inland Bays and a performance by Cascading Carlos.
A four-hour-long live ice-sculpting demonstration will take place on Saturday evening from 5 to 9 p.m. on the bandstand, during which festivalgoers can watch 1,500 pounds of ice transformed into a one-of-a-kind frozen piece of art.
For those who aren’t fans of the cold but still want to get in on the fun, there will be a number of warming stations throughout town, provided by Coastal Tented Events, another sponsor of the event. And, on Friday evening at 5 p.m., a bonfire will be lit on the beach at Hollywood Street, where the first 250 guests can enjoy s’mores provided by sponsor Custom Mechanical.
There’s even an option for those who want to enjoy a cocktail and some live music and watch the live sculpture demonstration. Beta Sigma Phi’s Alpha Alpha Chapter will host The Funsters from 7 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26, at Mango’s, for a demo viewing party.
The viewing party serves as the 27th annual fundraiser for the local non-profit, and will not only feature live music from the local band, but also dancing, silent and chance auctions, a 50/50 raffle, and an unbeatable view of the live ice-sculpture demonstration.
The event is sponsored by Mango’s, which will be providing light hors d’oeuvres and desserts to partygoers, and offering them a cash bar. With limited space available, the $35 tickets may be purchased in advance on the festival’s website.
“We’ve worked with Roseanne Shoemaker as a member of the Chamber through Oceanova for years,” said Weaver of the local spa. “This was always the weekend they had their sorority dance at Mango’s. We had approached them and said, ‘Let’s make this an opportunity for people to watch the live demonstration, help them host online ticket sales…’ It’s an amazing partnership.
“Last year, they doubled the charitable funds they raised. The sorority was able to enjoy it a little bit more and not solely run it.”
The Fire & Ice Culinary Showcase will begin on Sunday at 11 a.m. and highlight local restaurants Bethany Blues and 99 Sea Level, as well as 3BB Café. The $30 ticket fee for the showcase covers a small plate and beverage pairing at each stop on the showcase.
At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, the festival will host its first “smash party” on the bandstand.
“They’ll find the weak points of the sculptures, and they take a sledgehammer to it and just bring it down. It’s pretty interesting. You’ll be able to see the construction and deconstruction of our biggest sculptures on the bandstand. I’m pretty excited to see how that goes down.”
The idea for the festival was born from Weaver’s hometown of Lititz, Pa., which has hosted its Fire & Ice Festival for 15 years.
“It’s something I used to go home for. It’s such a huge economic driver for the town. They shut down streets and the park. There’re vendors and people everywhere. The Town surges to, like, 60,000 people,” she said. “It’s been amazing for how the businesses come together. After seeing that, and being in my events role before becoming executive director, I thought, ‘We could do that down here. This is a tourist destination. We have the resources.’”
After Weaver took the idea to the Chamber and its board for approval, the Chamber then went to Bethany Beach Ocean Suites in hopes of finding a festival partner.
“We spoke with Jack Burbage and asked what their slowest week was in the winter, and built around the festival around that,” she said. “It was a nice way to put heads in beds, but also a way we can help the businesses — a boost to get them through the rest of the winter until the spring, when the crowds come back.”
The first year of the festival was such a success that it was recognized by Southern Delaware Tourism at their December tourism awards, winning “Best New Event” in a tie with the Mid-Atlantic Sea Glass & Coastal Arts Festival.
“We haven’t won an award since 2011, through Southern Delaware Tourism,” said Weaver. “Our events have become a staple, so this was the first thing we’ve really done that’s been out of the box that we’ve been successful at. That was a massive honor.
“It was amazing to see how quickly people took to something during the winter here at the beach. Last year at the event, people were like, ‘I’ve had a house down here, and I’ve never come in the middle of winter!’ It was really rewarding to hear that, because I think people think it becomes a ghost town and, really, this time of year is just beautiful. We had a great group of people who believed in it and helped pull it off.”
This year, Weaver said, the Chamber brought in member Katina Dawson, owner of A Sweet Affair Weddings & Events, to serve as festival manager.
“She’s done an amazing job doing coordination,” said Weaver. “It’s been a huge infusion of energy and ideas.”
The goal of the festival, and the Chamber in creating it, is to provide off-season shoulder events for the business community, and Weaver said Fire & Ice does just that, noting that last year Fisher’s Popcorn opened up for a rare winter weekend and Bethany Blues had their best Saturday in the winter ever.
“We heard a lot of testimonials from the businesses that this was something that got them through to Easter week. We’re trying to build this tradition that people want to come back and see.
“My hopes and dreams for the event is, I would love to see this become more than just a Bethany event… It could really become a true tour throughout all the towns that we serve.”
Weaver said she hopes residents, visitors and businesses alike will enjoy the festive weekend packed with activities, and plan to return again next year.
“We hope the businesses see some success and that families have a great time!”
For more information and the complete schedule of events for the second annual Fire & Ice Festival, visit FireandIceDE.com or call (302) 539-1919.
By Maria Counts