Since 1995, dazzling, intricate ice sculptures of all sizes have drawn thousands of visitors to the streets of Uptown Somerset each January. 

Now in its 21st year, the annual Somerset Fire & Ice Festival has grown to offer more than just frozen works of art. Hosted each Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend by Somerset Inc., the event features something for everyone, from the young in age to the young at heart, with both indoor and outdoor activities held throughout Somerset over the three-day weekend.

Fire & Ice Festival - Photo by: Sheena BakerThe 2016 Fire & Ice Festival, set for Jan. 15-17, should prove to be a magical weekend as this year’s event theme is “Fairy Tales Can Come True.” The geniuses at Mastro Gourmet Quality Ice will create more than 50 fairy tale-themed sculptures to line the streets of Somerset and will be on hand throughout the weekend to demonstrate just how they create such detailed works of art from blocks of ice. It’s truly fascinating to watch these artists fashion elaborate sculptures using chainsaws, grinders, chisels and other heavy-duty tools. Over the years, Mastro’s maestros’ creations have included palm trees, teapots, dentures, a replica of the USS Somerset and everything in between.

While the ice sculptures take center stage at this popular event, they are far from the only draw to the Fire & Ice Festival. On Saturday, kids will enjoy the Fire & Ice Children’s Area, located at First Christian Church, with its youth activities, special displays and appearances by and photos with princesses Ana, Elsa and Cinderella. (We hear Spider-Man may also make an appearance.) The annual Teen Band Blast Friday evening at Somerset Area High School will entertain teenagers, too.

For those with a competitive spirit – or anyone looking to shed a few holiday pounds – the festival offers a 5K Walk/Run Saturday morning. Shutter bugs can enter the Fire & Ice Photo Contest and then view the entries on display Uptown. Other competitions include a photo/trivia Scavenger Hunt and a fairy tale-themed Window & Interior Decorating Contest for area businesses.

Be sure to come hungry. Not only does Uptown Somerset boast a number of great restaurants and coffee shops, but the festival itself offers a multitude of opportunities for tasty treats and venues with good food. The Kiwanis Club of Somerset will host its popular Pancake Breakfast at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Saturday morning. Later in the day, local service clubs, organizations and restaurants will vie for top honors in the Fire & Ice Hot Stuff! Chili and Soup Cookoff at the American Legion. First Christian Church will serve up a soup sale and the Somerset Vol. Fire Dept. Ladies Auxiliary will offer a Sunday Roast Beef Dinner. Food vendors will also be set up throughout the weekend.

The ever-popular Michael O’Brian Band headlines the festival’s entertainment lineup, taking the stage Saturday evening at the American Legion. The Roof Garden Barbershop Chorus will also be providing strolling entertainment throughout the weekend.

Fire & Ice Festival Sculpture - Photo by: Sheena BakerAn eclectic array of vendors and crafters will fill the basement of Newberry Place at the festival’s Marketplace, and a number of silent auction items will be up for grabs at Fire & Ice Headquarters, also located in the Newberry Place basement. Uptown Painting Parties, held in the neighboring Glades Court Mall, are scheduled throughout the festival weekend and the Laurel Highlands Model Railroad Club will have its winter display available for viewing at its location on West Main Street.

If all these activities weren’t enough, the festival also includes a fireworks display, set off on the Diamond, the center of Somerset’s Uptown district, at 6 p.m. Saturday. The vibrant pyrotechnic display puts the “fire” in the Fire & Ice Festival each year.

Somerset Fire & Ice - Photo by: Sheena BakerFor a detailed schedule of events, visit the Fire & Ice Facebook page or the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce’s calendar of events. Also be sure to pick up an official 2016 Fire & Ice Festival Guidebook, available at area businesses, for a map of sculptures, discount coupons and additional information on the event.

Want more winter festival fun? The Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce will hold its 25th Ligonier Ice Fest Jan. 23-24, bringing back-to-back weekends of icy excitement to the Laurel Highlands!