Despite some drizzle and temperatures above freezing, sales were brisk for downtown businesses during Chambersburg’s 18th annual IceFest.
Held Jan. 30 to Feb. 2, the event meant to combat the mid-winter blahs featured ice sculptures, a dance, chili cook-off, glass-blowing demonstrations, cake-decorating contest, ice slide and Run Your Ice Off 5K.
The activities brought plenty of people downtown to shop in the eclectic mix of businesses there.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of traffic the store had, especially Saturday. Sales were definitely up,” said Kendra Matusiak, who opened REmix Design in July 2019 at 107 N. Main St.
“Most people who came in were buying plants and crystals,” Matusiak said. “I also had lots of furniture sales, which surprised me. I thought new shoppers would be buying smaller items.”
She guessed about half the people coming into the store over the three days were visiting for the first time.
Annual Festival Draws Thousands
”It was so energizing seeing the town filled with activity,” Matusiak said. She said between the many new businesses in town and an uptick in visitors, she sees full sidewalks as the new normal for downtown Chambersburg.
Jennifer and Tom Davis have experienced seven IceFests at The Garage Studios, three at its current 102 S. Main St. location.
“As the event grows, traffic has grown considerably,” Jennifer Davis said. “We are so blessed to have some amazing events in our downtown that support the growth of business and enhance the beauty of our small town.”
Davis said sales are always up during special activities like IceFest, where top sellers are glass icicles and ornaments. Tom leads glass-blowing classes as part of the studio’s unique offerings, which also include Jennifer’s jewelry studio, art, vintage items and treasures sold by friend Mark Miller, who owns Gypsie.
“The traffic from this weekend is mind-boggling as a small-business owner,” said Jennifer. She said help from Miller and their daughters, AimeeBeth and Maggie, is crucial to their success.
“We get amazing exposure, and that is something that brings people back, she said. ”We also provide music and Tom blows glass the whole weekend, starting on Thursday. By Sunday, we are exhausted in a beautiful way.”
IceFest boosts local business
Scott Vorhees has seen business pick up at Bistro 71 during the last five IceFests. The owner and operator of the eatery at 71 N. Main St. said it has a loyal customer base. So, other than the businesses who rent the second-floor space for parties during the event, they don’t see a lot of new faces, just more at the same time.
Vorhees, whose business partner is his brother, Nick Broadwater, appreciates how IceFest boosts local business.
“Any reason to come downtown is a good one,” he said.
Penny Shaul, chairwoman of the IceFest Committee for at least the last eight years, said organizers aim to keep things fresh to give people more reasons to come to Chambersburg.
“We really strive to bring new events and more sculptures to IceFest,” Shaul said. “There’s a lot of things for different types of people to see,” many of which are free.
Lots to Do, See
DiMartino Ice Co. of Jeannette, Pa., carved more than 70 ice sculptures of varying sizes and shapes for this year’s event.
New to IceFest was a cornhole tournament, featuring 15 teams of two people each. Scheduled as an outside event, the competition moved indoors to the second floor of Main Street Deli because of inclement weather. Some of the proceeds benefited the Redneck Outlaws, a local organization that helps cancer patients and their families. Other beneficiaries were Council for the Arts, the Downtown Business Council and Downtown Chambersburg Inc., for whom the festival as a whole raises funds.
Downtown Chambersburg Inc. President Sam Thrush said turnout for the inaugural competition pleased its organizers. They plan for it to return next year.
As owner of Here’s Looking at You, a women’s clothing store at 123 S. Main St., Shaul said she reaps the rewards of the crowds at IceFest months after the sculptures have melted. January is typically her slowest month, when such an event is most needed. While it is difficult to count attendance, organizers estimated the four-day festival brought over 12,000 people to downtown Chambersburg.
“It’s great to have that many people walk past your door,” Shaul said.
It’s common for women to stop by in late winter or early spring, telling her they saw her business during IceFest. Although they didn’t stop in or buy at IceFest for a variety of reasons, they remembered her shop later when ready to seriously shop.
Giving Visitors a Reason to Come to Town
Organizers expanded the marketing area outside Chambersburg because the festival features activities that attract varied audiences. The borough already has plenty of history, restaurants, art galleries, shops and hotels to offer, so big events are the icing on the cake.
“I think it kind of helps give people a reason to come to Chambersburg,” Shaul said.
The presenting sponsor for this year’s IceFest was M&T Bank. For a complete list of businesses who sponsored lighting and ice sculptures, go to www.icefestpa.com/sponsors.