On December 31st, First Night will return to State College to help the town ring in the New Year.
First Night is a festival run by the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts as a celebration of the past year and a new beginning. This will be the 17th year for the festival and the seventh year under the care of First Night Executive Director Rick Bryant .
“It’s a great way for people to come together in a family-oriented, age-appropriate, alcohol-free place and celebrate what makes State College unique and the promise of the New Year,” Bryant said.
The festival attracts approximately 10,000 people, Bryant said. The night is full of music, food, and entertainment as well as a demonstration by the First Night State College Ice Sculptors. Ernie DiMartino , president of DiMartino Ice Company in Jeannette, Pa. heads the team of ice sculptors, who work for the company.
DiMartino’s father, Art, established DiMartino Ice Company in 1968. The family business continues its family legacy, with DiMartino running the company with his nephews working alongside him.
“It makes you work harder because you know how much your family has put into it,” Jared McAlister, nephew and ice sculptor, said. “[Your family] has given you this opportunity and you want to treat it with respect.”
What started out as an ice packaging company, DiMartino Ice Company has expanded into new areas. Throughout December, the team puts on demonstrations in towns around the state, including State College’s First Night. The team has been participating in the festival since the first year.
The team, with DiMartino as captain, includes two of his nephews; men, like Richard Alford , who have been there since the beginning; and DiMartino’s apprentices.
This year in memory of Art DiMartino, the team is going to be carving some of Art’s favorite designs. Art, who began the small business 44 years ago, passed away in June 2012.
“I like to call them Art’s Picks,” DiMartino said. “It’s a way to honor his life and commitment to ice carving.”
Using chainsaws, die grinders, disk sanders, and chisels the team works together to carve out the ice. The length of time to finish a sculpture varies from sculpture to sculpture, DiMartino said. He estimated that every block of ice used is equivalent to one-man hour of labor. So a 20 block sculpture will take the team around 20 hours to complete.
These sculptures are not the typical ice carvings that one might expect. Past ice sculptures have included an 18-foot Eiffel Tower and one of DiMartino’s personal favorite’s a flock of ducks flying over a lake. It took approximately 60 blocks of ice to complete, DiMartino said.
“I remember the one year when they made a full-sized rendition of Washington Crossing the Delaware ,” Bryant said. “[The sculptors] really are incredibly talented.”