Parties, bar crawls, street takeovers — they’re all part of Portsmouth’s annual Fire & Ice Festival this year, and they’re taking place over the span of five days, from Wednesday, Feb. 10, to Monday, Feb. 15.
The festival, established in 2014, has been especially anticipated this year since last year it was cut short after the first day.
“Because of the big snow storm, the highway was closed and they didn’t want people to travel, so we had to cancel,” event coordinator Amanda Beaulieu said. “So we’re very excited to come back with a strong presence this year. It’s going to be huge.”
The Fire & Ice Kick Off Party will get things rolling on Wednesday, held at the Martingale Wharf restaurant from 5 to 7 p.m. The party features appetizers, beer tastings, an ice bar, raffles and giveaways, ice sculptures and a TapSnap photo booth.
New to the fest is the addition of a second Fire & Ice Bar Crawl and Cocktail Competition. The first, happening Saturday, is sold out, but tickets are still available for the second, which will take place Sunday, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., starting at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre.
“That’s probably the biggest change this year, because it’s always a sellout event,” Beaulieu said. “Last year, before we had to cancel, there was already a massive waiting list, so this year, when it sold out again within days, we decided to get more bars on board and do another.”
At least 5 different restaurants will be participating at each crawl, including Martingale Wharf, Block Six at 3S Artspace, Row 34, River House, Blue Mermaid and more. All locations will have their own Fire & Ice cocktails for participants to sample and vote on their favorites for the cocktail competition.
Also new this year is a Street Takeover at Portwalk Place. From noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, there will be vendors, fire dancers and an ice sculpting demonstration. The sculpture created will be that of a dragon, which was decided by the public via a poll the sculptor put out on social media.
Beaulieu said the planning committee is hoping to incorporate more ice sculptures in the future and make it a trademark of the festival.
“It’s definitely something we’d like to grow and have more of,” she said. “Eventually, we’d like to have them placed all around town during the festival.”
There will be a variety of shows playing at Portsmouth venues throughout festival week, including the BANFF Mountain Film Festival on Wednesday at The Music Hall; Satchmo at the Waldorf, Thursday through Sunday at Seacoast Repertory Theatre; Freakwater with Jaye Jayle & Drunken Prayer on Monday at 3S Artspace; Antigone, Friday through Sunday at the Players’ Ring and many more.
Families will enjoy activities like a storytime and art project on Saturday at the library and dog sled rides (tickets required) on Sunday and Monday outside the Atlantic Grill, with coloring contests, a hot cocoa bar and more kid-friendly fun inside the restaurant.
Strawbery Banke Museum will host Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond every day of the festival, a hearth cooking demonstration on Saturday and a Fire & Ice Valentine Dinner on Sunday.
“We have such a great partnership for Fire & Ice and participation from all the Portsmouth businesses,” Beaulieu said. “Everyone likes to get involved with the events and make sure there’s a lot of fun things happening downtown during those days.”