Downtown Reading gears up for 4th annual Fire + Ice Fest

Event takes place Friday, Saturday on Penn Street

READING, Pa. - While the weather warming up Friday, downtown Reading is still a cool place to be.

Organizers began preparations for the fourth annual Reading Fire + Ice Fest, which is set to begin Friday night and continue Saturday.

"There will be 30 ice sculptures lining the 500 block of Penn, on both sides of the street," said Charles Broad, executive director of the Reading Downtown Improvement District, which is organizing the event.

"We've got interactive pieces," Broad added. "Kids will be able to go down an ice slide, sit on an ice thrown, get their pictures taken with an Eskimo and snow flake. We have a large pagoda and a Liberty Bell this year, as one of our feature pieces."

For grownups, there will be live music and a food and beverage tent that features an ice bar serving beer, wine, and liquor, the last of which will be provided by a new distillery in downtown Reading.

The forecast for Friday's temperatures to top out in the mid-60s forced organizers to rearrange some of their plans.

"Normally, we start setting up Thursday evening, so we're a little more ready on Friday, but because of the weather, we delayed that," Broad said.

No matter the weather, however, the ice sculptors said they're prepared for any challenge the weather brings.

"I've got a lot of great people," said Mark S. Crouthamel, the owner of Wayne County-based Sculpted Ice Works. "Today, we've got some elements to work with, but you know, when fire meets ice, what happens? You get water."

Opening ceremonies are set for Sixth and Penn streets at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Saturday's events include a chili cook-off at the Abe Lincoln at Fifth and Washington streets, the Snowfall Ball at the DoubleTree Hotel on Penn Street, and world championship ice racing at the Santander Arena.

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