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January 16, 2013

Fire & Ice Festival organizers hope for winter weather

Public invited to help name new penguin mascot

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Kids gather to look at the Marilyn Monroe ice sculpture sponsored by Smith Jewelers during the event last year.

Although the Fire & Ice Festival was postponed a month or so last year due to unseasonably warm weather, event organizers are optimistic that Mother Nature will cooperate this time around.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said the warmer 50-degree weather the area recently experienced gave him a little scare.

“I said to myself, here we go again. So I thought, we’re going to have this festival in July next year just to take out all the mystery about weather,” Patterson joked during a news conference at the Rochester Mills Brewery Jan. 10.

Despite last year’s setbacks, Oakland County Central Services Director David VanderVeen said he’s confident this year’s event will go off without a hitch.

“The weather is going to hold up. We’re expecting snow … so we’re looking forward to it,” he said.

The sixth annual festival — which runs 6-9 p.m. Jan. 25, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Jan. 26, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 27 — features dog sledding rides on Saturday and Sunday, runs on the tubing hill all three days, snowshoeing and cross country skiing on Saturday and Sunday, and ice skating and a snow play area. There will also be marshmallow roasting, ice sculptures and live ice carving demonstrations, trolley rides downtown, music, shopping, and more. Special activities at the ice rink include a broomball demonstration Saturday from 10 a.m.-11 a.m. and a figure skating exhibition Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. The Tastefest/Beer Tent will be open all weekend with food and beverages available for purchase. All activities are free, including a fireworks display at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday near the corner of East Third and Water streets. A concert by the teen-singing group TRUE precedes the fireworks each night.

“If you haven’t seen fireworks in the wintertime, particularly when snowflakes are coming down, you have really missed something that is quite spectacular,” VanderVeen said.

The Rochester Fire Department will hold a spaghetti dinner fundraiser to benefit the Rochester Area Youth Assistance 5-8 p.m. Jan. 25 and 4-8 p.m. Jan. 26 at the main fire station, 277 E. Second St., as well as a pancake breakfast fundraiser to benefit RAYA from 9-12:30 p.m. Jan. 27.

New to the festival is an online contest to name its penguin mascot at www.surveymonkey.com/s/fireandicemascot. The top three names will go to a vote at the festival Jan. 25 and 26, with the winner announced Jan. 26 before the fireworks. Voting takes place in the Lions Club Warming Tent and the TasteFest tent. All who submit a name will be entered to win a $50 gift certificate to downtown Rochester.

In past years, Vanderveen said, more than 20,000 people from more than 35 different communities have traveled to Rochester to enjoy the festival.

“It really has been a popular event,” he said.

“Not only is it a good, fun program for Oakland County to be a part of, to help sponsor a quality-of-life event, as I call it, but it’s also part of this community spirit right here in Rochester,” Patterson added.

The Fire & Ice Festival is presented by Oakland County, the Oakland County Parks Division, downtown Rochester and the city of Rochester.

For more information, visit http://www.downtownrochestermi.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.