East Passyunk Goes Arctic

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By Eldon Graham

TWO YOUNGSTERS, L-R, Ishan Stanley and Lekha Chacko, were all in amazement seeing the Liberty Bell sculpted out of a block of ice – with their names even inscribed on it. Photo by Eldon Graham

Passyunk Avenue was abuzz last weekend with the sights and chills of the second annual “Arctic Ave.,” a festive event featuring ice sculptures. People got to experience the avenue while taking in the frozen art, music, shopping specials and more. Anyone strolling down the avenue saw the uniquely crafted sculptures along the sidewalk outside the shops.

The festivities officially began with the first live carving of the ice blocks at the Mifflin Triangle, which a number of spectators came out to watch sculptors Roger Wing and Don Harrison carve the first block of ice into the resemblance of Philadelphia’s famed Liberty Bell, down to its iconic crack.

For once, the cold temperature was welcome: It ensured the ice sculptures wouldn’t melt after 7 p.m. as they did last year, said Pam Zenzola, the new executive director of E. Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District. “We had 70 degrees last year,” she smiled ruefully. “Warm weather brought us more people, but they were disappointed when the sculptures were melted, whereas today that’s not going to happen.” Zenzola acknowledged the steady cold weather this year might hinder some people from coming. But her confidence was rewarded as people showed up in droves to take part in the icy activities. EPABID’s goal, she explained, was “to bring a lot of people out to our neighborhood, to show what we do here. We make a community, promote our businesses, what we’re doing, that’s what this is all about.”

Ice carving began at 11 a.m. “Between here and the gateway, at Broad & E. Passyunk Avenue, and the fountain and all the way down the avenue, about 35 preordered sculptures have been delivered,” said Zenzola.

Live carvings took place throughout the day, which added to the premade carvings outside select shops that participated in “Arctic Ave.” Personalized ice sculptures were admired outside the establishments of the likes of HeadHunters, State Farm and other prominent locations which received an icy treatment. Their locations were marked by a blue balloon in front of a favored shop.

THE E. PASSYUNK Avenue Business Improvement District got the ice-sculpture treatment as well, being carved up and placed at the Broad Street gateway at the intersection of Broad & E. Passyunk. Photo by Eldon Graham

Many of the shops had specials and activities which families or anyone could enjoy. As the evening went on, an event for adults only called the “Cocktail Crawl” enticed many out on the avenue. Participating venues in the Cocktail Crawl were Adobe Cafe, Bing Bing, Birra, Cantina los Caballitos, Fond, Garage, Lucky 13, Noir, Paradiso, Plenty, POPE, South Philly Bar & Grill, Stogie Joe’s, Townsend and Triangle Tavern.

The night ended with an ice carving battle at the “Cheesesteak Corner,” where Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks are located. It was an ideal location for the carving battle, given the rivalry between the two establishments. It ended with Don Harrison being crowned winner for a carving of Geno’s Steaks.

One of the spectators at the Passyunk Gateway, named Devon, a woman who lives in the Passyunk area, thought the artistic ability to carve something out of a block of ice was impressive. “I live around here and I just find it absolutely amazing that you can take a saw and some ice picks to a block of ice and turn it into art. It’s beautiful and amazing,” she said, unable to take her eyes off the remarkable feat.

As for the cold weather, Devon thought it felt “invigorating. I like the cold,” she smiled pleasantly. “I like living here because you get all four seasons and you got to take them all. You can’t get the pretty of the fall and you can’t get the flowers of the spring without the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter.”

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