Unlike Vancouver, Canada, where there's a shortage of snow for the Winter Olympics, the setting couldn't have been more appropriate this past weekend in Jim Thorpe, as the chamber of commerce held Winterfest 2010 in downtown Jim Thorpe.
In the dead of winter, under a blanket of white, the historic center of the town was as alive as ever for the festival, as multitudes of visitors strolled Broadway and Race Street, and shopped the town, visited the galleries, and dined in the restaurants, from the train station to the opera house and beyond.
There was something for everyone, including ice carving demonstrations, Civil War reenactors, horse-drawn carriage rides, strolling musicians, the Jim Thorpe Mug Walk, and in the evenings, live entertainment at the Mauch Chunk Opera House.
Chamber member Dan Hugos, reflecting the comments of other merchants, said that in spite of the downside of the recent weather, business was good in town. In fact, most shops did as well on Saturday alone as they did over the entire weekend last year.
He noted that Winterfest is an important fundraiser for the chamber and said that over the weekend the restaurants were full and businesses were busy with visitors who were enjoying themselves during their visit to the town.
One activity that drew much attention was the ice carving demonstrations at Josiah White Park and at the opera house.
Ice sculptor Neil Trimper of Sculpted Ice Works from Lakeville, near Lake Wallenpaupack, answered questions from the crowd and gave an entertaining and detailed description of the techniques and procedures involved in sculpting the large blocks of ice.
Each block of ice weighs about 275 pounds and is 20 inches by 40 inches by 10 inches thick and is produced by Sculpted Ice Works themselves.
When asked what holds these huge blocks of ice together when stacked for carving, Trimper calls it "ice glue," better known to many as "water" which, when squirted onto the blocks of ice, freezes securely, bonding them together.
Also drawing a lot of interest was a visit by the Civil War reenactors of the 69th Pennsylvania Irish Volunteers who put on a living-history display both days.
The 69th was the only Pennsylvania regiment to carry the green Irish flag into battle. This battle flag was given to the regiment by the people of the city of Philadelphia.
The regiment was recruited from Philadelphia Irish militia companies of the 2nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Militia and was mustered into service on Aug. 19, 1861.
The regiment's first action was at the Battle of Balls Bluff. The 69th served in the Peninsula Campaign, during which it was complimented by Major Gen. Joseph Hooker for making "the first successful bayonet charge of the war."
The unit played a large role at the Battle of Gettysburg, helping repel both Brig. Gen. Ambrose Wright's charge on July 2 and Pickett's Charge on July 3. Its casualties over the last two days of the battle were enormous, losing 143 men out of 258, including its colonel, lieutenant colonel, two captains and a lieutenant.
The regiment's ranking officer, Major Duffy, was seriously wounded but refused to give up command until the battle was over. The 69th finished the campaign under the command of a captain.
This and other related information is available on their Web site at www.pa69thpvi.org .
The evening entertainment at the Mauch Chunk Opera House included a Fleetwood Mac tribute concert by Tusk on Saturday and a 19th century soiree, featuring Lehigh Valley pianist Helen Beedle on Sunday.