Have a (snow) ball at ice festival

UP FRONT

January 18, 1996|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

What better year to inaugurate a festival called "Baltimore on Ice" than the winter of '96? The festival promoters had planned on trucking in fake snow, but given the way this month is turning out, that probably won't be necessary.

"Mother Nature did help us out," says Melissa Gianiny, the festival's director. The festival is to be the centerpiece attraction for Baltimore's long, cold winter, she says.

"This past winter, I called around to various other cities to see what they were doing during the four-month-long winter season," Ms. Gianiny says.

She learned that instead of having a sprinkling of activities spread throughout the entire winter season, other cities tended to focus on a specific period of time.

"They do an action-packed four days or a week," Ms. Gianiny says.

In Baltimore, the action begins tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. at the Inner Harbor Ice Rink, with the official kickoff. There will be a skate show and a torch-lighting, which is free for observers.

The opening is followed by a party -- a beach party on ice, to be precise. The "Paradise on Ice" beach party will come complete with palm trees, tiki torches, a steel drum band and food courtesy of Victor's Cafe.

The beach party will be held at the Inner Harbor Ice Rink and Rash Field on Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is $5 with $2 for skate rental for a two-hour session. Once again, it won't cost anything to watch.

If the temperature gets a little chilly, -- into Victor's Cafe on Pier 7 to warm up those cold bones. The cafe is the evening's official "warming station" from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and will offer free finger food.

The festival gets an early start on Saturday with the 10 a.m.-to-noon "Skatin' Safari" at the Inner Harbor Ice Rink. The Baltimore ZooMobile will be on hand, and children can skate with complimentary fake animal noses. The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for children under 12, with $2 skate rental per person.

Or, if skating with animal noses doesn't turn you on, glide on a blanket of snow at the "Winter Games Extravaganza" at Rash Field. There will be a cross country ski course, a snow-shoe area and a winter camping exhibition. Truly adventuresome souls may want to try a little snow volleyball and the obstacle course.

The "Winter Games Extravaganza" is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is free for both watching and participating. If there isn't enough snow around, some will be trucked in for the event.

The rest of the day includes an ice-carving competition, a tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, public skating at the Inner Harbor Ice Rink and "Old-Fashioned Carnival Night."

The carnival, held at Rash Field and the Inner Harbor Ice Rink from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., will include midway games, clowns and bands.

Saturday's official warming station is Phillips Harborplace restaurant, where a special kid's menu and discounts on coffee and hot chocolate will be offered.

The festival concludes on Sunday with public skating at the Inner Harbor Ice Rink, another "Winter Games Extravaganza" and "Sports Day at the Rink."

Local sports figures and mascots will visit the ice rink, including players from the Baltimore Bandits and the Baltimore Spirit. Team members from the Maryland Speed Skating Association will be on hand for demonstrations, too.

The promoters hope for a big turnout. "We have never done this before, but we expect 15,000 to 20,000," Ms. Gianiny says.

It took a lot of work to bring the weekend off, she says. The city's Office of Promotion joined with the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and the Mayor's Commission on Tourism, Entertainment and Culture.

THE FACTS

What: Baltimore on Ice, a festival with skating, ice carving, carnival, food and more

Where: Inner Harbor Ice Rink, Rash Field, Harborplace tTC Amphitheatre and other Inner Harbor sites

When: Events begin Friday at 5:30 p.m., Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday at noon

Tickets: Skating admission is $5; skate rental is $2; many events are free

Call: (410) 837-4636 or (800) 282-6632; for rink conditions, call (410) 385-0675

Where the ice is

When you've finished skating downtown, there are some other places to try out your blades. Here's a sampling:

Benfield Pines Ice Rink, I-97 and Benfield Boulevard, Millersville. (410) 987-5100.

Mount Pleasant Ice Arena, 6101 Hillen Road, Baltimore. (410) 444-1888.

Northwest Family Sports Center Ice Rink, 5600 Cottonwood Ave., Baltimore. (410) 433-2307.

Piney Orchard Ice Arena, 8781 Piney Orchard Parkway, Odenton. (410) 799-8664.

Columbia Ice Rink, 5876 Thunderhill Road, Columbia. (410) 730-0321.

Ice World, 1300 Governor Court, Abingdon. (410) 612-1000.

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