Anyone nostalgic for those bone-chilling winters of yesteryear just might get a taste of the good old days at this year’s annual Chestnut Hill on Ice.
Anyone nostalgic for those bone-chilling winters of yesteryear just might get a taste of the good old days at this year’s annual Chestnut Hill on Ice. Planned for Friday and Saturday, Jan. 27 and 28, it might not require mad bomber wool hats or warm fleece gloves, but it does promise an extraordinary set of adventures the whole family can enjoy.
The event, which is free to the public, has an unmistakable lure. According to Courtney O’Neill, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Business District, “Why Chestnut Hill?” she laughed. “That’s easy. There’s so much beauty here outdoors. Our community is so walkable. People are out strolling even when it’s cold. And there’s such an appreciation for art here. Chestnut Hill on Ice is a fun take on that. Imagine all those fantastic sculptures, but all done in ice.”
Intricately crafted ice sculptures and live ice-carving demonstrations will be among the most popular activities. Although ice sculptures will be displayed all along Germantown Avenue, between Willow Grove and Rex Avenues, the center of attention will be the newly-dubbed “Ice Sculpture Gardens” (aka Laurel Hill Gardens, at 8125 Germantown Ave.).
That’s where world-renowned ice artist Peter Slavin and his master craftsmen from Philadelphia’s Ice Sculpture Philly will set up shop, carving ingenious frozen designs inspired by the various sponsors and businesses of Chestnut Hill. Stateside Vodka will also offer sales of special vodka cocktails at its mobile bar at the Gardens throughout the event, from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
O’Neill announced a major new activity for this year’s spectacle: “An ice-less curling rink that will be located in the Blue Lot behind Wells Fargo (Germantown and Evergreen Avenues). That’s right. We expect a big draw. After all, this is a major Winter Olympics event, and there are more curling clubs in the Greater Philadelphia area than you imagine.” Enthusiasts will be able to play in 30-minute segments before moving on to other activities.
Since the hours for Chestnut Hill on Ice will coincide with dinner on Friday and lunchtime on Saturday, guests can enjoy chili specials at various restaurants along the Avenue. Another popular attraction is the Ice Bar at the Fareway, carved entirely out of ice, where Chestnut Hill Brewing Company will be serving up ice-cold, locally-brewed beers, wines, and hot drinks at its outdoor beer garden. Visitors will also hear live music at various points along the way and can expect retail specials at local merchants’ shops.
Concerned about the weather? Not to worry. O’Neill mused about last year’s “magical surprise. It snowed on the second day of the event, necessitating a delay of one day to safely proceed; but it added an element of charm to our festival.” Jack Frost has been pretty kind so far this season, but even if the temperatures go south, warming stations with fire pits will be stationed along Germantown Avenue where warm child-friendly and adult snacks and beverages will be served.
Chestnut Hill on Ice started as Valentine’s Day on Ice in 2016. It was a one-day event held at Laurel Hill Gardens featuring live ice sculpting and an appearance by Elsa and Anna (characters from the Disney hit “Frozen”). Peter Slavin has been a major creative partner from the beginning, even as the event has grown to a two-day affair. Kate O’Neill, director of operations for the Chestnut Hill Business District, says that Slavin has been “able to handle all the ideas our retailers send for their sculptures as well as adding the ice bar and other sculptures.”
The climax and conclusion to the two-day festival, and perhaps its biggest draw, is a spectacular 8-foot bonfire encased in a pillar of ice. Another impressive creation by Peter Slavin, the bonfire will take place in the Blue Lot on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Chestnut Hill on Ice takes place Friday, Jan. 27, from 5 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 28, from 12 to 5 p.m., along Germantown Avenue. Free. Information: https://chestnuthillpa.com; 215-247-6696.