State College

Cold temperatures didn’t stop the fun at First Night

First Night State College features icy art

Owner of DiMartino Ice Company Ernie DiMartino talks about the various ice sculptures on display for First Night State College Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 in downtown State College.
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Owner of DiMartino Ice Company Ernie DiMartino talks about the various ice sculptures on display for First Night State College Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 in downtown State College.

Cold temperatures on Sunday didn’t stop a steady stream of First Night visitors from enjoying the annual New Year’s Eve celebration, which offered a little something for everyone.

The daylong event, organized by the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, has been a tradition in State College for more than 20 years. The family-friendly celebration once again offered live entertainment at various downtown venues, which were popular on the frigid afternoon, but a stroll through town showcased the joy of the event.

The afternoon sun in Sidney Friedman Park offered little more than moral support for the line of children waiting, with sled in hand, for a turn on the Russian ice slide.

With the sound of kettle corn popping and children laughing, Maureen Davis stood at the bottom of the slide, with eddies curling from the small hole in the lid of her hot cider, waiting for her granddaughter. It was the third year the two visited First Night.

“I think this is the coldest year we’ve been here, but it’s not too bad,” Davis said. “She’s been on the slide a few times already, so it’s not slowing her down.”

About one block away from the park, the lobby of the State College Municipal Building offered a space for people to write well-intended resolutions and escape temperatures struggling to reach double digits. Inside was the Burning Man Resolution Sculpture, a nearly 10-foot-tall art installment created by Bruce Bigatel, Rick Bryant, Martha Carothers and Phyllis Kipp.

Next to the imposing sculpture was a table with strips of fabric, markers and pins. After writing a resolution, most people pinned it to the body of the Burning Man. About 50 strips of resolution fabric adorned the sculpture. Most offered common goals of losing weight or finding peace, but when the art is burned after midnight, one resolution engulfed in flames — “Edit some genes — will signal that a major research university is mere steps away.

While writing resolutions and sledding down an ice slide might sound like fun, no visit to First Night is complete without touring the famous ice sculptures.

For the 24th year, DiMartino Ice, of Jeanette, delivered more than 100 blocks of ice that weighed in at over 10 tons. Artists carved the blocks into 85 one-block sculptures that were placed at various points downtown. A walk down Allen Street offered a unique look at the artists carving large multi-block sculptures that serve as the centerpieces of the event.

Joe DiMartino was one of the artists carving the large sculptures using various power tools that echoed down South Allen Street. He took a break from carving a 5-foot tall and 8-foot wide “2018” sculpture with a bear taking the place of the one. Dusting off ice chips and adjusting his safety glasses, DiMartino shared his love of the event, which he has been a part of for 16 years.

“Even though it is really cold, there have been a lot of people coming by. It’s been awesome,” DiMartino said. “State College has always been great for us and this is really fun to be a part of.”

Leon Valsechi: 814-231-4631, @leon_valsechi

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