Final preparations are underway this week to bring carriage rides, fireworks and some 50 ice sculptures into the heart of downtown Utica for the city’s annual ice festival Feb. 8-10.
Designed with a Disney theme, the sculptures will line Cass Avenue and portions of Auburn Road, with some of the largest carvings taking center stage in Memorial Park, where much of the festival’s entertainment is scheduled.
Jeff Wolf, a Shelby Township artist and owner of Finesse Ice Sculptures, and his team will once again carve all of the festival's sculptures, as well as offer on-site demonstrations. Wolf has also helped organize an amateur carving contest for the viewing pleasure of festival-goers from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday.
“The carvings are going to be amazing,” said John Sattmann, owner of Cass Bar and Grill and ice festival chairman. The masterpiece of the festival is expected to be a 20-foot Cinderella castle in Memorial Park. “We’re going to start that on Wednesday as long as the weather holds,” Sattmann added.
With partly sunny skies and temperatures expected to hover in the high 20s through Saturday, festival organizers are planning for one of the largest ice festivals to date.
Due to overwhelming popularity in past years, carriage rides will be offered all three days of the festival and the fireworks display will return on Friday night.
Utica will close its streets at 4 p.m. Friday and an official opening ceremony is planned for 8 p.m. in Memorial Park. The fireworks will launch around 8:20 p.m., with the best viewing available in the park and along the river.
“It’s a nice way to kick off the evening,” Sattmann said. “Come down and enjoy the city. The streets will be closed, the ice sculptures will be illuminated and all the restaurants will be open.”
While a DJ will provide music for dancing in the park throughout the weekend, Radio Disney will be on site Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. for a special performance. Kids games will also be available during this time.
Festival-goers can warm up with free hot chocolate inside City Hall or visit the Utica Library where the annual book sale is scheduled to run Saturday and Sunday.
For more information on the festival, visit the City of Utica website at http://www.cityofutica.org/.