By Claire Walla
Riding the coattails of last year’s well-attended event, this year’s HarborFrost celebration was officially launched this week. And according to Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce member Robert Evjen, it will up the ante over last year’s inaugural fest.
In addition to fireworks over Long Wharf and ice sculptures on Main Street — both events are returning in keeping with the event’s “Fire and Ice” theme — Evjen said this year the event will also incorporate a three-and-a-half-hour set of live music, which he referred to as “Musical Brunch.”
“The bottom line is we wanted to extend the day over last year’s half-day event,” Evjen explained. The music will begin around 11:30 a.m. and last until 3 p.m. when the rest of the day’s activities will begin, starting with the first ice sculpture carved on Long Wharf. “We wanted to make it a full day this year and entice people to come down to the village early for brunch.”
And, of course, live music.
The musical portion of the day is being organized by Kelly Connaughton, head of the Sag Harbor American Music Festival (which, like HarborFrost, also made its debut in 2011). Though the details are still being hashed out, Connaughton said the morning will include performances by at least five artists (most likely local), who will play music in the various shops and businesses on Main Street.
The businesses will pay to host the artists and, Connaughton added, that fee will be partially supplemented by the Chamber of Commerce, which Connaughton said she hopes will give the businesses further incentive to pay for a show. In addition to providing live entertainment and bringing shoppers to Main Street, Connaughton added, “It will be great for us to get musicians earning some money in the lean winter months.”
So far, she said she’s received verbal commitments to host music from Page at 63 Main, Phao, Lifes’tyle and BookHampton.
As for the main attractions, Evjen said the fire dancers will be back this year, whipping strings of fire for a crowd at the foot of Long Wharf. Evjen said the Grucci family is already committed to doing the evening’s fireworks show and Fear No Ice will be here again this year (chain saws and all) to create two new ice sculptures on Main Street. The sculpting — to take place at 3 p.m. on Long Wharf and 4 p.m. behind the Civil War monument on the southern end of Main Street at the Madison Street split — will bookend HarborFrost’s fundraising Frosty Plunge, at 3:30 p.m.
In addition to making a mass of bodies shiver and teeth chatter, the event will raise money to benefit the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps. Last year’s event attracted a crowd of more than 50 participants and more than 100 spectators, according to Evjen. While TV personality Matt Lauer (a Noyac resident) and Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato (a Sag Harbor native) wowed crowds by bracing the cold at last year’s plunge, to shake things up this year, rumor has it the Sag Harbor Village Trustees will challenge Southampton Town officials in a race to raise funds for the plunge. (That’s just what we heard.)
As of yet, the 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. slot has not officially been filled with an event, but Evjen said this will most likely include some sort of race along Main Street. Whether this includes dog sleds or bed sleds — both ideas have been floated (the Chamber is currently looking for volunteers willing to conceptualize and organize the event)—the hypothetical race will in some way spotlight the HarborFrost King and Queen.
New to HarborFrost this year, the Sag Harbor Express will be organizing a contest for which those so inclined are encouraged to submit the names of individuals they believe should be crowned HarborFrost royalty. Details will be provided at a later date. (Check back in on our Facebook page for more.) Also, yoga instructor Hailey Schmitz will be hosting a candlelit yoga session at the Sag Harbor Gym Corp. and Dodds and Eder will organize an evening art show.
This year’s event will take place on Saturday, February 11, with a rain date slated for Sunday the 12. Don’t worry, the weekend is sandwiched right between the Super Bowl and President’s Day weekend.
“Last year we planned HarborFrost during Super Bowl weekend, and we didn’t contemplate a snow date or a rain date,” Evjen explained.
When inclement weather threatened to rain on last year’s parade, Chamber members were caught in a pickle. (Fortunately, the rain that came down didn’t deter festival goers from enjoying the day.) This year, Evjen said they’re prepared.
“Our main concern is the fireworks,” he said. Evjen estimated the cost of the fireworks display would be about 60 percent of the event’s overall budget, which is currently estimated at around $10,000. (Last year’s HarborFrost cost about $7,000 to put on.) He added that this year’s fireworks display is expected to be even longer than last year’s.
“Although last year there was inclement weather,” Evjen continued, “The general atmosphere was great. The idea is to build upon that this year.”
Carving Frozen Sculptures Enters the Realm of the Theatrical
By Annette Hinkle
While most artists strive to create art for the ages, there is a whole other class of artist for whom creative expression is more about the moment.
There’s something poetic about art forms that aren’t meant to last. Sidewalk murals, mandalas, sand castles — all are ethereal creations which in a very short time, are blown or washed away by the forces of nature, their existence made more precious by the fact it was so fleeting in the first place.
At this time of year, it’s easy to imagine another example of an impermanent art form— the ice sculpture. Carved of the strongest of winter’s materials, it takes only the subtle heat of the first less than frigid day to turn it into a melted memory that fades away as quickly, or slowly, as the weather dictates.
Scott Rella knows all about that. The founder of “Fear No Ice!” (one of four ice sculpting companies he has created) Rella has been working with the cold stuff since 1981 and has made quite an art form of it. He lives in Vail, Colorado now, but got his start in ice sculpting right here in his native New York.
Initially, Rella, who attended the New York Academy of Art, started out by sculpting more traditional materials – clay and marble. Then while he was working as a chef, a fellow chef asked if he had ever worked with ice.
“I started and that was it,” says Rella. “My first piece was at the Waldorf Astoria and they used it. It was a basket, which is always everyone’s first piece. I started getting into more challenging pieces right away.”
Within a few years, Rella had created ice sculptures in Rockefeller Center and as part of New York City’s Ice Expo, and his future as an ice sculptor was cemented.
“I never went back to marble sculpting,” he says.
But Rella is coming back to New York — this weekend, in fact, when he and sculpting partner Peter Slavin visit Sag Harbor to show off their talents at HarborFrost. Make no mistake, these guys (along with a third partner, Kevin Roscoe, who won’t be making the trip to Sag Harbor) are among the best in the world and in fact, have taken ice sculpting to a new level. Rella and his fellow ice sculptors have been in world competitions as far away as China, and have even created sculptures as part of the Olympics.
“Soon, we’ll be able to add Sag Harbor to the list,” says Rella.
Artists with a flair for the theatrical, “Fear No Ice!” is about more than just creating impressive ice sculptures, though they are masters at that. Half the fun is witnessing the sculptors in action. In fact, “Fear No Ice!” is really an ice performance troupe. Often wearing all white gear, Rella and his team offer dramatic and comedic elements as they turn huge blocks of ice into unique works of art (think Blue Man Group with chainsaws and chisels).
“The boys don’t talk – but they just do incredible stuff really quickly, in 25 minutes, and blow everyone away,” explains Rella. “People watch in total amazement.”
“None of it’s rehearsed. Every show we sculpt is different,” adds Rella. “Once we figure out what the show is and how big we are going to make it, we storyboard it on paper. But to the audience, it’s always a surprise.”
So what can audiences in Sag Harbor expect to see on Saturday?
“Peter and I are going to bring a bunch of ice, we’ll stack it up and then we’ll carve it,” explains Rella. “On one end of Main Street, we’re planning to make a throne where people can sit and get their photos taken.”
At the other end of Main Street by the Civil War monument, Rella notes the final frozen product will be a surprise.
What we do know is that the sculptures will be made of ice provided by Rella’s own company (Ice Sculpture Designs, Rella’s first firm is in Deer Park, N.Y. and is now run by his sister. It produces about 145 ice sculptures a week for weddings and other events in the area). Rella has installed special ice making machines all over the world that supply the raw material for his firms’ sculpting ventures. Rella explains that pumps in the machines circulate the water so there is no oxygen in it — a requirement for making the kind of clear ice preferred for sculpting. Each sheet weighs 300 pounds, and depending on the sculpture, preparation can involve stacking a few hundred of these sheets atop one another, or just a few.
“We create ice lounges, and we’ve done a lot of big structures,” he says.
So is there anything that Rella and his team can’t make out of ice? What is his favorite thing to sculpt these days?
“Pretty much everything’s possible,” says Rella. “I’ve been sculpting since March of ’81. It’s been 30 years. For Peter and myself, what we’re into changes and has a dozen times. There are things I would’ve never sculpted 15 years ago because I thought they were boring, or not challenging and are now interesting. Like any artist, my interests change and my focus changes.”
“From an artist’s perspective, I’m into things in public spaces now — like a series of giant ears I did along a river, or a giant shell with a spiraling wall around it that represents the past and present — millions of years ago, Colorado was under water.”
“When people say ‘That looks out of place,’ I say it really isn’t. It’s the buildings that are out of place,” explains Rella. “I’m into seducing them — getting people to ask ‘Oh, it’s five ears, why did he sculpt that?’ And I say, ‘Are you listening?’”
This Saturday, February 5, the chainsaw sculpting talents of Fear No Ice! take place at 3 p.m. on Long Wharf and at 4 p.m. at the far end of Main Street near the Civil War monument.