By Sarah Lennon
Even those of us who shy away from winter sports can enjoy all the chilly weather has to offer at the annual Ice & Snow Festival in downtown Keene, New Hampshire!
It can be difficult to get people out and walking around in the harsh weather typical of New England winters, but the beautiful snow and ice sculptures are a must-see to bust that winter lethargy. There will be ice sculptors working in Central Square and lots of activities that are fun for the whole family! These include kids’ crafts, a snow slide, s’mores, a fire truck display, and so much more. Festival director Jim Narkiewicz heavily emphasizes these activities because, in his words, “We do it for the kids.”
One such activity is orchestrated by local artist Emily Sodders. Sodders, a painter from Gilsum, NH that specializes in murals, breaks from her status quo at the Ice & Snow Festival to work on a much smaller canvas- faces! In addition to face painting, Sodders usually competes in the snow sculpting competition; last year she created a mermaid. Sodders says that she usually garners anywhere from one to three additional face painting gigs from festival-goers, and that those often lead to more business for her indirectly. Sodders posits that this is because “any opportunity to serve dozens or hundreds of people inside of a day works as a ‘living advertisement’ of my skills.”
Besides helping to support local artists, the Ice & Snow Festival also promotes local businesses. Although the 2015 festival was sponsored by Price Chopper, C&S Wholesale Grocers, and Liberty Mutual Insurance, Narkiewicz ensures that the festival supports local businesses as well. Part of this approach is using the money from the sponsors to ensure that the festival is free to attend and participate in. The only thing patrons have to pay for is their lunch. They are encouraged to eat at one of the many locally owned restaurants in downtown Keene- specifically Local Burger, Fritz’s, and Scores, where live music will be playing during the festival.
Tracy Keating, owner of the candy store Life Is Sweet, had a few things to say on the topic of arts and local business as well. “It’s always a great day downtown,” Keating remarks. “It brings out people walking around at a time of year when people are not walking. I believe it will be another great year. For the festival and my store.” This festival is a 14 year old tradition in which ice and snow sculptors from all around New England compete for cash prizes up to $500. The turnout is typically 3,000 to 5,000 people. Since local businesses have recently taken a hit due to the cancellation of the Pumpkin Festival, the smaller art festivals that Keene hosts throughout the year play a crucial role in bolstering the arts community and local economy. These festivals, endorsed by the City of Keene, are all part of a movement called “Building a Spirit of Place.” According to its mission statement, some goals of the movement are as follows: “We seek to enhance the appearance of Keene while building a sense of pride and community spirit, thereby improving the environmental, economic, and social well-being of our city and its neighborhoods for today and tomorrow.” Nothing enhances a city’s appearance quite like a bunch of ice sculptures!
The Keene Ice & Snow Festival will take place this Saturday (February 6, 2016) from 10am-4pm.
About the Author
Sarah Lennon is currently a student of Communication and Creative Writing at Keene State College in Keene, NH and an intern with Arts Alive. She originally hails from Charlestown, RI.