The 27th annual Fire & Ice Festival begins today and continues throughout Sunday.
I can remember the very first festival back in 1996.
For whatever reason that January, I went to Somerset Rotary with Dave Reiley, former owner of the Daily American and Somerset Newspapers Inc., and the late Jon Starn, former publisher — both members of Rotary. I think the Rotary club was having a guest speaker or someone received an award or something newsworthy that these men wanted me to cover but those exact details are lost from my memory.
But, what I do remember is that Dave Reiley drove me to the local noon Friday meeting at the Somerset Country Club that day. Jon Starn drove separately. On our way back, several of the ice sculptures were just freshly placed on display down Main Street as we drove back to the Daily American newspaper office.
It was an enchanting moment traveling down Main Street that day and one of my best memories of my former boss. He drove slowly and we each kept pointing out the different sculptures. “Look, there is a Scottish Highland dog and look over here it’s a dollar sign at Somerset Trust,” we kept chiming back and forth until we made it back to the office. I don’t remember if there was traffic behind us or not but it is interesting how those few minutes were so memorable and how we both shared that excitement of seeing ice sculptures in Somerset for the first time.
The Fire and Ice Festival (sponsored by Somerset Inc.) is and has always been mesmerizing even after that very first one! What it offers is something so unique in wintertime because all of our other festivals come in spring (Pennsylvania Maple Festival), summer (Somerfest) and fall (Mountain Craft Days, Jubilee and Springs Folk Fest) not to mention the fairs in August and September. While we look forward to these events all year, Fire and Ice is special because it gives us a reprieve from the winter doldrums. It is a time when Uptown Somerset comes alive when everyone would normally hunker down for the rest of winter.
In recent years, I have had the fortunate opportunity to get to know Regina Coughenour, Somerset Inc.’s executive director, and we have become kindred spirits. Regina puts her wholehearted effort into planning and helping to manage this special event (along with many volunteers) and she has the best interest of the community in mind always.
“The festival captures the magic of the cold winter season during a typically sleepy time of year by incorporating the heat of hot cocoa over a bonfire and the crisp brilliance of ornate sculptures,” says Regina. “Set in Historic Uptown Somerset, it highlights the warmth of small town life — of inviting shops, small details and friendly faces — even in the coldest of our seasons.”
While last year’s Fire and Ice had some cancellations because of the pandemic, this year the fireworks are back on schedule at 6 p.m. Friday along with so many other activities throughout the weekend. The theme this year is “Winter Carnival.” There will be 47 sculptures throughout Uptown Somerset with live musical performances, ice carving demonstrations and more. Check out somersetinc.org or or go to Facebook for more information. Don’t forget to stop by Headquarters (130 N. Center Ave.) for your festival pin, apparel and all the need-to-know info.
And, while that new and fresh feeling of the very first festival can never be duplicated, it’s wintertime in January and this is a wonderful way to celebrate and unite in Uptown Somerset.
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