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Ligonier ice festival showcases DiMartino sculptors

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
DiMartino Ice Co. sculptors Jared McAlister (left) and Joe DiMartinos prepare for the 22nd annual Ligonier Ice Fest on Jan. 26 and 27. Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review photo take by Sean Stipp Jan. 4, 2013 at DiMartino Ice Co., in Jeannette
Ernie DiMartino poses for s portrait in front of one of his trucks with his father’s photo on it as a tribute to the now deceased Art DiMartino who died in June. Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review

The 22nd Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce Ice Fest is Jan. 26 - 27 on the Ligonier Diamond.

Sculptors from DiMartino Ice Co. will use chain saws to cut through 20-inch wide by 40-inch tall blocks of ice creating temporary masterpieces of art. The carvers will create the ice sculptures 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Jan. 26 and noon - 3 p.m. Jan. 27.

The annual ice festival is the first event of the year for the chamber. It provides an opportunity for local merchants to showcase their wares at indoor sidewalk sales.

“Whether it is 70 degrees or seven degrees, it brings people to town,” said Cindy Purnell, the event's chairperson for the past 12 years. “It is not a fundraiser but more of a business builder,” said Purnell.

This year's ice fest will introduce the first invitational speed carving competition 2 p.m. Jan. 27. It will showcase four DiMartino ice sculptors, Robert Higareda, Jared McAlister, Joe DiMartino and Ernie DiMartino.

“This is something we developed for the event in Franklin. It has become very popular there,” said DiMartino, the company's president. “While driving back from that show, I thought this would be something that could become popular in Ligonier to watch on Sunday.”

On the second day of the event in Ligonier, DiMartino said the carvers typically create six or eight carvings.

“The half-hour carving competition gives people a reason to come back on the second day of the festival,” DiMartino said.

“An MC will be there to promote the event leading up to the competition and will give a play-by-play during the event.”

While it is not actually a speed contest, spectators will have the opportunity to vote for the best carving station.

Misty Haven Carriage will offer horse and buggy rides around the Diamond area and The Popcorn Man will be making Kettle Korn throughout the event.

Glass City Swing Band will provide free musical entertainment at 2 p.m. Jan. 26 in Town Hall auditorium. Swing City will perform in the auditorium 12:30 p.m. Jan. 27.

The Ligonier Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 spaghetti dinner begins 11 a.m. in the Ligonier Town Hall community room. The Ligonier Valley Library will present a children's winter story hour at 2 p.m. Saturday for children 10 and under.

The Ligonier Theatre will present the second Chill Chaser 3 p.m. Saturday.

DiMartino has been participating in the ice festival in Ligonier since its inception.

“It has been 22 years since the first ice festival in Ligonier,” said DiMartino. “You have the greatest participation here in Ligonier. The percentage of businesses active in this festival is the greatest of all eight festivals we do between November and February each winter.”

DiMartino said the event was a nationally-sanctioned ice carving event, in the beginning.

“It started as a demonstration the first year. Then for the next few years it was a professional ice carving competition,” said DiMartino.

In recent years, the event has become a favorite for DiMartino.

“The Ligonier Ice Fest gives me the opportunity to carve in front of family and friends,” said DiMartino. “This fest has turned into the winter version of my family reunion. It is our most local festival and people in Ligonier have become family to me too. We've been there for 22 years. I consider people there my friends.”

DiMartino said this year's event in Ligonier will be an emotional one for him because it is the first event without his father Art, who passed away in June 2012.

“It will be sad this first year without my father,” said DiMartino. “Ligonier was his favorite. We will be dedicating some of the sculptures to him.”

DiMartino said his father always enjoyed coming to Ligonier during the ice fest.

“He was always so proud of us when he came to Ligonier,” he said. “It was a place that made him smile.”

DiMartino said a photograph taken of his father during the ice fest three years ago appears on all of the company's delivery trucks.

“We put his photo on one truck to see how it worked. When we showed it to Dad, he got a big smile on his face and asked if I would put on all of the trucks. A month before he died, I took him to the ice house and showed him the photos on all of the trucks.”

Contact the chamber office at 724-238-4200, for additional information about purchasing ice blocks for the ice fest.

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or

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