The fate of the 2021 Fire & Ice Festival seemed to be melting under the heat of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — until plans began to firm up in just the past few weeks, according to its host organization.
Lauren Weaver, executive director of the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce, has been busy this week putting the finishing touches on plans for what will be an event that she described as “different,” but still “something that’s going to be really fun.”
The festival’s iconic ice sculptures will be in place for the weekend of Feb. 26-28, but the event kicks off on Feb. 21, when its signature drink competition heats up between area bartenders.
And this year, instead of the usual Bethany Beach-centered event, the ice sculptures will be divided among several locales, to allow for better distancing of spectators, Weaver said.
“We’re trying to keep everyone a little more spread out,” she acknowledged.
This year, the fourth for the festival, it will have a “Delmarvelous” theme, showcasing the area’s natural attractions, as well as the shopping, dining and culture unique to the peninsula.
In addition to Garfield Parkway in Bethany Beach, there will be sculptures at John West Park in Ocean View, and the Millville Boardwalk complex and Lord’s Landscaping in Millville, Weaver said.
Bethany Beach’s Ocean Suites will be the site of live ice-carving demonstration by Ice Lab during the evenings of Friday, Feb. 26, and Saturday, Feb. 27. The demonstrations will also be shown virtually.
Maps of the sculpture locations will be available in the Coastal Point, as well as online. They will also be available at John West Park, which is located at 32 West Avenue in Ocean View, during the festival. Details have been changing so rapidly in recent days that the maps weren’t available yet at the Coastal Point’s press time this week.
Weaver said the planning for the festival has only come together in the past six weeks, due to uncertainties brought into play by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the festival’s scope grew from just 23 sculptures as of Feb. 1 to 120 by the end of last week, she said. To put a visual reference on that, Weaver explained that the festival grew in a matter of days from 6,000 pounds of ice to 32,000 pounds of ice.
The Town of Bethany Beach gave the Fire & Ice 2021 the official green light when officials signed the permit for the festival on Feb. 1, Weaver said.
The drink competition once again kicks off Fire & Ice week in the resorts. It will look at bit different this year, with signature cocktails provided in to-go cups, and voting and judging to be done virtually. For more information and tickets for the drink competition, go to www.fire&icede.com. Tickets will be available until Thursday, Feb. 18, for $40 each.
Competition proceeds will benefit Nemours duPont Pediatrics & Senior Care, Sussex Campus.
Those who miss the drink competition can still taste the signature cocktails during Fire & Ice Weekend, thanks to a “tasting tour card” that can be purchased for $25, which will be honored at participating establishments. Tickets will be available at www.fireandicede.com through Feb. 24.
Lord’s Landscaping will host Tour del Fuego, a walk-through food-and-wine trail. Bethany Beach Beverage Co. and Off the Hook Restaurant Group will provide a five-course, chef-inspired meal with hand-picked wine pairings, with lighted ice sculptures decorating the trail. Tickets for the food-and-wine trail will cost $40 per person and will be sold in four-person “pods.” To ensure safe distancing, each pod will meet in the Millville Fire Hall parking lot and will be escorted across the street for their allotted time slot.
Proceeds from the trail will benefit the local charity Santa’s Letters.
Weaver said participation in this year’s festival by local businesses has made it possible to hold it and make it successful. She said she expects to have more than 50 businesses involved by the time the festival starts.
A scavenger hunt will add another dimension to the ice festival, allowing all visitors to participate at their own pace throughout the weekend. Businesses have donated prizes for the scavenger hunt — another way the community has gotten involved.
“It’s such a huge group that has participated,” said Weaver.
For the latest information on the Fire & Ice Festival, go to www.fireandicede.com.