Cel­e­brat­ing win­ter

An­nual Fire & Ice Fest set for Jan. 20 at Sweet Ar­row Lake

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANIEL P. PROSICK COR­RE­SPON­DENT Con­tact the writer: [email protected]­pub­li­can­her­ald.com

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.

ANDY MATSKO / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

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.

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