Orrville expecting a big crowd for its Nov. 25 holiday event

Orrville expecting a big crowd for its Nov. 25 holiday event

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Last year Orrville’s Home for the Holidays committee wanted to add ice sculptures to its annual season kick-off. The hope was for at least a lukewarm reception.

What they got instead was downright icy.

“We hoped to get 12 (sculptures), and we got 30,” said Daphne Silchuk-Ashcraft, library director at Orrville Public Library and Home for the Holidays committee member.

This year it looks like things will be even colder, which would turn the one-day, three-hour event into the hottest ticket in town.

Of course, for that, the hope is for things to be on the colder side to keep them hot.

Had enough punny weather yet?

“This year we already have 50,” Silchuk-Ashcraft said of the number of entries.

Her number was an estimate. Fellow committee member Justin Haislip, in charge of overseeing the ice sculptures for the event, which will run on Nov. 25 from 5-8 p.m., said the number had grown by mid-week to 57 and there was time to add to that.

Haislip, who wanted no credit, was the one who initiated the ice sculpture movement in the first place. He and his wife were fans of Medina’s annual ice festival, normally held around Valentine’s Day, and that provided some inspiration to add a similar attraction to Orrville’s event.

And with COVID all around at the time and people not able to congregate indoors as much, what better solution than to give people something to do outdoors?

“It was just an opportunity for people in the winter months to get outside,” he said.

What happened last year was 2,000 people made their way through downtown Orrville during the Home for the Holidays event and the day or two that followed.

“We had no idea what would happen,” Haislip said of the huge turnout a year ago, which stretched over the weekend after the actual event as people continued to head downtown to check out the ice sculptures.

Temperatures in the 30s — not too cold to go outside for a while but cold enough to not melt the ice — provided a perfect environment for the three-hour event to evolve into an entire weekend, a bonus for businesses taking part.

The ice-sculpting portion has grown so much that this year some streets will be closed so visitors have room to move in and around the creations, all of which are made by Elegant Ice, a Brunswick-based company. Participants submit artwork, and Elegant Ice turns it into a frozen display.

“People get their logos in ice and color,” Haislip said. “Sometimes the designs are made up. We’ve had penguins, leg lamps and giant chairs. This year there will be a torch in a seven (ice) block tower with a giant flame in it.”

There also will be an ice-carving expo with a pair of sculptures made onsite for anyone wanting to see the process.

While the annual event — nobody seems exactly sure how long Home for the Holidays has been happening — seems to be on solid ground, Silchuk-Ashcraft said it wasn’t long ago people were considering calling it quits.

That wasn’t going to do, though, and it’s come back with a vengeance. The ice art proved to be a big draw and will likely continue to do so, but the occasion is far more than that. There will be something for everyone to see, do, eat or drink.

Home for the Holidays will include the arrival of Santa Claus by fire truck at the Smith-Orr Homestead, probably around 6 p.m., followed by the house lighting and announcements. What the ice sculptures will do, though, is keep people downtown and looking at other things businesses might have to offer.

“It’s something they can look around at while getting their hot cocoa and cookies and crafts,” Silchuk-Ashcraft said. “People love it. Some of the businesses will all host a spot where people can do crafts. It’s a fun, free family event.”

The genesis of the idea was to have it on Thanksgiving weekend because that was a time people actually were coming home for the holidays. Now it’s not just for homecomings but for anyone already here and even in surrounding areas. It’s a way to promote Orrville from top to bottom.

It’s a mini-street festival, minus the rides but with just about everything else a regular festival would have during summer months. That will include food trucks and vendors of all sorts. And if the weather is miserable, well, it only lasts three hours.

Long-range forecasts, though, called for temperatures right around 40 F.

“What we saw last year was people came out during the night, and then there were people walking downtown all over,” Silchuk-Ashcraft said. “We hope to encourage them to come back and shop. We want them to see all the great things that Orrville has to offer.”

Born from the successful 2021 version was the Orrville Community Development Corporation, a 501(c)(3) entity created to oversee Home for the Holidays. It’s so new its website is still in the launching process.

“We had to get a lot of people on board, and a lot of people got on board,” Silchuk-Ashcraft said. “We couldn’t do it if everybody didn’t say, ‘Hey, yeah, we’ll do this.’”