Ice sculptor extraordinaire Peter Slavin at work on a creation at a recent Chestnut Hill on Ice event.

by Sue Ann Rybak

Old man winter must be getting pretty frail because he hasn’t mustered up enough energy this winter to give us enough snow to break out the sled. Not to worry though. Chestnut Hill’s winter festival, Chestnut Hill on Ice, on January 31 and February 1 transforms Philadelphia’s Garden District into a Winter Wonderland. Chestnut Hill on Ice features live ice sculpting demonstrations, an outdoor ice bar carved entirely out of blocks of ice, a designer-built yurt village, a chili-cook off and more. The two-day event takes place along Germantown Avenue on January 31 from 5 – 9 p.m., and Saturday, February 1 from 12 – 5 p.m.

The event is free to attend, with pay-as-you-go activities for all ages. The best part is that mild winter weather won’t ruin the festivities, because the majority of the activities aren’t contingent upon cold weather. A favorite event for kids is the Iceless Ice Skating Rink, which will be located at Chestnut Hill’s Blue Parking Lot, 184 E. Evergreen Ave.

Philip Dawson, director of Chestnut Hill Business District (CHBD), said the CHBD expanded the pop-up iceless rink to 1,920 square-feet because it was so popular last year. They wanted to give people more room to skate. Admission for this activity is $10, and ice skates in varying sizes and walkers for non-skaters are available on site.

He added that characters from “Frozen,” Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, are new to this year’s festival. Both Queen Elsa and Princess Anna were at the festival several years ago, when it initially began as “Valentines on Ice.” No doubt, they still are sure to melt many children’s hearts. Attendees will have opportunity to capture a winter memory with them from  noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Iceless Ice Skating Rink. 

Kids can defrost with a cup of hot chocolate from La Chocolatera food truck or other goodies at restaurants and vendors at Market at the Fareway.

The Festival’s signature not-to- be-missed event is its Live Ice Sculpturing Demonstration by world-renowned ice sculptor Peter Slavin. The Mt. Airy resident, who has traveled to over 150 countries, performing theatrical ice sculpting shows and competing in ice sculpting contests around the world, including the Winter Olympics, will transform a huge hunk of ice into a mesmerizing piece of art on January 31 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and on February 1 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Laurel Hill Gardens, 8125 Germantown Ave.

“Chestnut Hill is a special place to me,” said Slavin, who also owns Ice Sculpture Philly, which creates custom ice sculptures of all sizes for weddings, parties, festivals and special events. “I live just two miles away. I love this community. My goal every year is to encourage families to come out and have fun together. People are always looking for something fun to do in the winter, and Chestnut Hill on Ice is a fun way to do that.”

Dawson said attendees can “get inspired for winter ‘glamping’ when they check out the Yurt Village. He said Summer Classics, a new business on the Avenue, and Tailored Home are both doing yurts. He said Tullaulah and Bird will also have a yurt, but this year they are “building their own from scratch.”

“It’s going to be custom designed,” said Dawson. “It’s supposed to be something pretty impressive. Then, also this year for the first time, Peter Slavin has also decided to outfit a yurt for himself. He is going to make all the furnishings entirely out of ice.”

In addition to the live ice sculpting demonstration, visitors will have the opportunity to tour one-of-a-kind ice sculptures on display up and down the Avenue on Saturday in front of shops and restaurants. The ice sculptures were commissioned by the businesses. For example, Dawson said Serendipity of Chestnut Hill, 8506 Germantown Ave. had Slavin carve a Rocky statue out of slab of ice. Attendees can warm up at warming stations or, on Saturday night, gather around eight-foot bonfire encased in a pillar of ice.

There will also be plenty of fiery foods and hot and cold beverages for attendees. For the second year in a row, Chestnut Hill’s local restaurants will be competing in a chili competition. Attendees can warm up with chili from these participating restaurants: Baker Street Bread Co.’s Hearty Turkey Chili, McNally’s Tavern Turkey Chili with Vermont Oyster Crackers, Iron Hill Brewery Short Rib Chili, Paris Bistro & Jazz Café Pyrenees Country Style Chili with ground wild boar and vension, Campbell’s Place Signature Chili and El Poquito’s Sanora Spiced Chorizo Sweet Potato Chili. 

“New this year, Stateside Vodka will be offering tastings, cocktails and bottle sales at their mobile bar at Laurel Hill Gardens Friday night and Saturday and at the ice rink on Saturday only,” Dawson said.

Chestnut Hill Brewing Company will also be serving ice-cold, locally brewed beers and wines at their outdoor Ice Bar, carved entirely out of blocks of ice. Constellation Brands will be serving wine tastings in the courtyard at 8338 Germantown Ave. with B101 FM games and prizes.

Attendees can snap a photo in front of two giant red hearts on Germantown Avenue and share it on social media. Tag #IChestnutHill (using the red heart emoji) for a chance to win a Chestnut Hill gift card to be used at participating restaurants or retailers.

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