Annual Fire & Ice Fest set for Jan. 20 at Sweet Arrow Lake
Think you have the recipe to take down the reigning Sweet Arrow chili champion, who just happens to be a county commissioner?
Well now’s your chance, as a county nonprofit is inviting the public to come join them in a day celebrating this winter’s extended warmth. Putting the “chill” in chili, Diakon Community Services invites the public to come enjoy its Fire & Ice Fest from 2 to 5 p.m. Jan. 20 at Sweet Arrow Lake, 108 Clubhouse Road, Pine Grove, according to Susan Long, Diakon center services director. Admission is free, but one event does carry a nominal fee, Long said.
In its sixth year, the Fire & Ice Fest “is a feel-good event and gives people in the community something to look forward to in the middle of winter,” Long said.
With the aim of drawing crowds “outside to enjoy the park throughout the year — focusing on winter events — to help with cabin fever syndrome, and to chase away the winter blahs,” Long said, the gathering will feature activities for young and old, the hungry and the healthy, including the traditional Fire Hot Chili Cook-off.
The contest will give entrants the opportunity to dethrone Gary “Hat Trick” Hess, who is looking to get his third win in a row and fourth overall. Advance registration is required by Jan. 18 by calling Diakon at 570624-3018. Registration to enter a chili is free, but there is a $5 fee to participate in the competition which entitles participants to taste all chilies and cast a vote for their favorite. Organizers ask competitors to donate a large crockpot of chili and come up with a name for it, Long said.
Unique chilies, whether by name or ingredients, are encouraged but not mandatory, Long said.
“We have had many types of chili, everything from fiery hot chili to sweet chili, sweet potato and bean chili to white chicken chili, but I must say the most creative name was a tie between “Marriage Proposal Chili” and “Kathy’s Garbage Chili” — she said she had everything but the kitchen sink in the chili,” Long said.
Other food-based fun includes roasting hot dogs over an open fire; a homemade vanilla ice cream-making demonstration with Bob Evanchalk; and, for the second year in a row, a Healthy Chocolate Dream presentation by nutrition adviser Kim Woodford of the Penn State Cooperative Extension. “Everyone really liked the unique taste of the Mexican hot chocolate, the added ingredients of cinnamon, vanilla extract and nutmeg gives it a spiced-up version from traditional hot chocolate,” Long said. “Everyone enjoyed learning the health benefits of chocolate from Kim Woodford.”
As for other entertainment, Jesse Wade, a one-time chili contest winner himself, will be strumming country tunes for the crowd, and Splash the Clown will be on hand stringing together balloon animals and more.
Unfortunately, one of the downfalls of warm winter weather is the lack of ice, and therefore, a lack of an ice dive presentation by the Schuylkill Haven Dive Rescue & Recovery Team. As an alternative, the team will demonstrate how they use a sonar scanner to inspect the bottom of the lake, and will also perform how to do a dive search pattern in the water near the amphitheater, Long said.
All proceeds will be split between Diakon and Sweet Arrow Lake Conservation Association. Diakon Community Services, 118 S. Centre St., Pottsville, offers a variety of services to help better the lives of senior citizens in Schuylkill County, including Diakon Living & Learning After 50, Health & Wellness and Meals on Wheels.
Dave Heim, Auburn, left, and Bob Evanchalk, Pine Grove, make homemade vanilla ice cream at last year’s Fire & Ice Fest. This year’s event, scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m. Jan. 20, will include a demonstration by Evanchalk on how make homemade ice cream.