LEWISTON — The appearance of the sun was both good news and bad news on Saturday — good because roughly 1,200 people were expected at the Ice Festival of Lewiston/Auburn; bad because direct sunlight is the worst thing for the 24 ice sculptures that dotted Fountain Park between DaVinci’s Eatery and TD Bank in the Bates Mill complex.
Although no one was complaining, Bruce Gerry of Auburn said he believed a festival with the word “ice” in its name should be held in subfreezing temperatures. Gerry, who cradled a can of Belgian beer from Shock Top, said he preferred the snowy ambiance that marked the inaugural event last year.
“I think it made for a nicer ice festival,” he said. “Everything’s a little bit melty this year.”
Hillary Turcotte, also of Auburn, disagreed, saying she favored the clear skies and mid-40-degree temperatures. Turcotte, who sipped a glass of white wine from Simply Naked Wines, said the warmer weather made it easier to see the sculptures and enjoy them.
“I like it better,” said Turcotte, who works for Center Street Dental, a local business that sponsored a tooth fairy ice sculpture.
“We like anything that supports Lewiston and Auburn,” Gerry said.
“Weather doesn’t make the event,” Moe Madore of Lewiston said. He said he would be there in all conditions to show his support for local businesses and art.
For organizers, Saturday’s balmy weather was a welcome change from the drizzle that greeted festival goers on Friday evening, the launch of this year’s festival.
Workers had the foresight to wrap the sculptures in tarps earlier on Saturday, protecting them from the sun and helping to insulate them from the warmer temperatures, said Michael Dostie, an L/A Arts board member who helped organize the event.
About 600 people turned out Friday, armed with umbrellas and seemingly undaunted by the the rain. Dostie said he expected twice that number on Saturday, having presold 1,000 tickets to the event and making an additional 200 available at the door. By 6 p.m., a line of people trailed down the sidewalk from Fountain Park to Chestnut Street.
“It’s a celebration,” he said. “It’s a great big party to celebrate winter, to celebrate L/A Arts, to celebrate our local businesses and celebrate the art of ice sculpting.”
Twenty-five Twin Cities’ restaurants, including DaVinci’s Eatery, Mother India and the Fire House Grille, donated hors d’oeuvres that were served in the Bates Mill Atrium. Six ice bars set up outside in the park engaged in all forms of libation, from beer to martinis.
Ice chips sprayed onlookers as an ice sculptor wielding a chain saw chiseled away at a block of ice.
Some folks ducked into an igloo carved from snow.
The festival ends Sunday with a free family day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hot cocoa and sweet treats will be served in Bates Mill Atrium, and live music and theater will be featured. Outside, in Fountain Park, children’s games and activities will be available, along with ice carvers erecting new sculptures.
Proceeds will be benefit L/A Arts. The money will aid efforts throughout the community, such as Lewiston Art Walks, free summer concerts, community galleries and Arts in Education programming.