A crowd gathered in the first block of Pomfret Street in Carlisle Saturday to watch Tony Young wield a chainsaw with more precision than some people handle a butter knife.
It’s all in a day’s work for a man with about 30 years of experience in ice sculpting.
Kevin Gregory of Ice Concepts, who also has about 30 years of experience in the business, said the sculpture began with a 300-pound rectangular block of ice on which the design was sketched. The sculptor then roughs out the shape before using different tools to refine it into the finished product.
“We have a very good set up at the shop with everything we could possibly need at our fingertips. There’s a few more challenges to doing it live and so forth, but it’s what we do, so it’s second nature to us,” he said.
Gregory also took time to explain the process to those who were gathered in Carlisle. Most people don’t know about ice sculpting so it’s helpful to take some of the common questions about the business and answer them right off the bat, he said—questions about making a living from carving ice, what the market for custom ice sculptures is like or about the block of ice itself.
“I like to give just a little bit of insight on what we do and how we do it every day,” Gregory said.
Gregory also took some time to introduce the crowd at the Ice Art Fest to the sponsor of the live demonstration.
Gary Barth, who goes by the moniker “Uomo di Pace” which means man of peace in Italian, leads what he called a “mini peace movement.” He’s been handing out coins with a peace symbol on one side and a smiley face on the other for seven or eight years. So far, he’s given away about 100,000 of the coins.
This is the second year that Barth has sponsored a sculpture. For the past three years, he’s been coming to Carlisle for business on occasion. He heard Downtown Carlisle Association was looking for sponsors for the live carving so he agreed to do it.
Barth said he’s met great people in town and became friends with them. He complimented the town’s art scene, particularly the work of Carlisle Arts Learning Center, and its restaurants.
“I’ll say one thing about your city. You’ve got some of the best restaurants around,” he said.
The Saturday morning demonstration took place only steps away from Nothing Sweeter, which was experiencing its first Ice Art Fest after only two weeks in business.
Owner Annette Lane said they didn’t have past history to help guide their preparations, but they did bake extra cupcakes, cinnamon rolls and more to make sure they had enough for the crowds.
“We’ve been doing pretty good so far. Everybody likes what we have to offer,” she said.
Attractions like the live demonstrations and the ice sculptures themselves bring visitors to the downtown as a whole, allowing them to discover places off the beaten path.
Bedford Street Antiques on North Bedford Street has participated in the event for three years.
“It brings a lot of customers down,” said co-owner Mary Roell. “It does cause repeat customers. It is good. I think it’s good for the town.”
Because the store attracts customers from around the country, it also becomes a connection for information about Carlisle, and through the year, Roelle has had some of those customers ask her when Ice Fest would be happening.
Though they are in their 17th year in business, it helps new customers find them just as Pomfret Street Books finds new customers from those who drift down to their East Pomfret Street shop to see the ice sculpture out front.
“They’ll come for the little ice things and then not know that I’m here. They never knew that I existed and so it’s getting new customers,” said store owner Laura Erfle.
Those customers may not buy anything today because, after all, books are heavy to lug around, but they do come back, she said.
Across Hanover Street on the west side of town, newer businesses also get a boost from people strolling around to see all of the sculptures.
Feathers in the Nest and Earth Artisan & Outfitter are both located on Chapel Avenue behind borough hall.
“Even though we are off the beaten path, we have always found that’s where the best adventures lie,” said Jessica Miller, owner of Earth Artisan & Outfitter.
Friday night was a busy one at the shop, located in a carriage house dating back to the 1800s. Miller said people often tell her they have traveled the alley or lived there all their lives, but never knew the building was there.
Now, she said, many who have discovered the shop will come back later.
Kelly Miller and Traer Beaudette, co-owners of Feathers in the Nest, also have seen plenty of foot traffic from Ice Fest visitors.
“The winter blues happen right now so this is something fun and unique to participate in and get us through that dull moment,” Beaudette said.
Kelly Miller agreed.
“For retail, this time of the year tends to be a little more stagnant anyway so this really helps boost our sales,” Miller said.
Email Tammie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.
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