First Night artists getting ready to start sculptures; Allen Street closes Monday morning

A heavy dose of rain in the State College area Sunday was an unwanted sight for First Night organizers, but a clearer forecast for the next two days will be helpful.

Rain can quickly damage the traditional First Night ice sculptures that are scheduled to be set into place Monday and Tuesday, director Rick Bryant said.

But the below-freezing forecast from AccuWeather the next two days will do well to preserve the sculptures from the elements, he said.

Bryant said it’s a delicate balance because above-freezing temperatures can hurt the sculptures, but if it gets too cold some people might second-guess coming out for the night.

“We monitor the weather and we plan appropriately, but ultimately Mother Nature is in charge,” he said.

The 100 block of South Allen Street will be closed starting at 8 a.m. Monday and the ice sculptors will take to Sidney Friedman Park to start the four- to five-hour process of carving the large ice sculptures that have become a First Night staple. The 200 block of South Allen Street won’t be closed until about 7 p.m. Tuesday, when the carriage rides start.

The water for the sculptures is run through a machine, freezing it and removing any impurities to create completely clear ice, and then fused together into a large wall before the artists start to chip away.

This year the large sculptures will be a slide, a hatching dinosaur and a likeness of Buddha. Bryant said the First Night organizers work through ideas with the sculptors, looking for recognizable pieces or others that are relevant to current events.

Artists will also start placing the smaller ice creations on the street Tuesday morning before the festivities begin. Polling has suggested that the sculptures are one of the biggest draws for the night, Bryant said.

Bryant and the crew will plan for the weather, salting the sidewalks and making contingency plans, but the weather will do what it does. Over the years, they have seen it all and adjusted accordingly.

In any case, they will be ready.

“This is show business, Bryant said. “The show must go on.”