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Fire and Ice Festival returns to Havre de Grace

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HAVRE DE GRACE — From ice sculptures and snow queens to a chili cook-off and hot wing competition, the second annual Fire and Ice Festival will bring a warm touch to Havre de Grace’s winter wonderland this weekend.

This is the second year that the Havre de Grace Alliance is holding the Fire and Ice Festival. After last year’s attendance surpassed predictions, organizers are expecting this year’s festival to garner an even larger turnout, according to Bambi Johnson, executive director of the Havre de Grace Alliance.

“Last year was our first year and it took off. [It was] way, way more successful than what we expected,” said Johnson, who said she is predicting the festival will see about 7,000 to 10,000 attendees this year.

A “Cocktail Kindle” cocktail and dessert party will kick off the festivities Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Vandiver Inn, the festival’s official lodging sponsor. That party will feature live music by Brenna Kupferman.

The festival will officially open Saturday with a showing of the movie “Happy Feet Two” at the Havre de Grace Cultural Center at the Opera House at 11 a.m. The day’s events will feature ice carving demonstrations; a meet-and-greet with Elsa and Sven, characters from the Disney movie “Frozen”; and a chili cook-off in which community members will be able to sample chili prepared by restaurants throughout town and cast their vote for their favorite; and a performance by pianist Josh Christina at the Opera House to close out the night at 8 p.m.

On Sunday, the festival will run from noon to 4 p.m. with live performances by Elsa and her friends, a magician and fire eater, a corn hole tournament, a hot wing eating contest, and a train ride down North Washington Street.

Sunday’s portion of the festival will also feature a parade in which children are invited to march. After the parade judges will crown an Ice Prince and Ice Princess, who will have the opportunity to appear at town events throughout the year, such as in the Fourth of July, Christmas and Mardi Gras parades.

Johnson said children do no need to be Havre de Grace residents to participate in the parade or be crowned ice royalty; but they are encouraged to exemplify the spirit of the Ice Festival with wintry costumes or simply a smile, wave and festive cheer.

“It’s just the overall ‘Are you representing our Ice Festival?’” she said.

The festival is free to attend, but certain activities require tickets, such as the chili cook-off and corn hole tournament. For a full list of events and to purchase tickets, visit www.facebook.com/IceFestivalHdG/.

Visit Harford is sponsoring the festival, according to Johnson.

“They are fabulous,” she said. “This would not have happened without them.”

With many towns in limbo between now-passed winter holidays and upcoming spring events, Johnson said the Fire and Ice Festival provides an opportunity to bundle up for some outdoor fun and then warm up with indoor activities.

“It’s something to do in the winter when there’s nothing else to do,” she said.

As for the name of the festival, fans of the Game of Thrones television show will understand the reference to author George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novel series that the show is based on.

“I was so addicted to that show,” Johnson said of the Game of Thrones television show, which aired its final episode on HBO in May 2019, putting a cap on eight seasons spent in the fictional lands of Westeros and Essos.

Johnson’s favorite part of the festival is watching the live ice sculpting.

“They are artists and they blow me away,” she said. “How do you take a chainsaw and make a piece of art? It’s mesmerizing to me.”

Beyond watching the ice sculptors in action, Johnson said she enjoys looking at children’s faces as they watch the ice sculpting themselves.

“There’s nothing better,” she said. “I can’t even tell you how much I just enjoyed watching the kids run around, looking at the sculptures, watching the ice carving, looking at Elsa.”

The festival will feature more than 40 ice sculptures, some of which will be interactive, like chess boards and cornhole boards made of ice.

With so much to see and do at the event, coming out to this year’s festival is a no-brainer, according to Johnson.

“Why wouldn’t you go?” she said.

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