The art of ice sculpting will be on display in Gillette this weekend as the city launches its celebration of the holidays.
Gillette’s Downtown Holiday Ice Festival, which will lead into the city’s annual “Parade of Lights,” will be held Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
During the day-long event, five sculptors will work with 200-pound blocks of ice to create sculptures that will be on display for visitors to downtown Gillette.
“One thing we seem to get a lot of is snow,” said Jessica Seders, executive director of Gillette Main Street, the organization holding the event. “We thought ‘What better way to get people downtown?’”
The ice festival was launched five years ago, but for its first three years, it was held in February. Last year, organizers changed the date to coincide with the city’s Christmas celebration.
The sculptors will work on their pieces from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
At the same time, samples of chowder and soup will be offered up for judging by members of the public in the “Chowder Challenge” and fire pits will be set up for the preparation of s’mores.
Other activities during the day will include an ugly sweater contest and a parade by the motorcycle club ABATE, which will launch its annual toy drive during the event. Selected merchants will also be taking part in a “concoction contest,” in which they will make specialty drinks — alcoholic and non-alcoholic — for tasting by shoppers.
The day’s events will be capped by the city’s annual “Parade of Lights,” which will begin at 5 p.m. The parade will feature 30 to 40 floats and usually draws from 3,000 to 4,000 people, Seders said.Seders said the day full of events is Gillette Main Street’s way to bolster local shopping during the holiday season.
“We’re just trying to help kick off that ‘shop local’ season,” she said. “Our community is very supportive. Most of our merchants are reporting increases in business, some as high as double-digits.”
The idea of community support has become especially important this year as Gillette deals with declines in the coal industry that saw two of Campbell County’s largest coal mines close temporarily earlier this year.
“That is why our community comes out in force and supports one another,” Seders said.
For more information on Gillette’s Downtown Holiday Ice Festival, go to Visit Gillette’s website or visit Gillette Main Street’s Facebook page.