If Rich Daly were a superhero people would call him Iceman. In less than an hour he can turn a block of ice into a work of art right before your eyes. For the past 25 years, he has led his company, Ice Memories Inc., of Mastic Beach, which specializes in designing ice sculptures.
“I pretty much can carve anything,” said Daly, 43. “But because we are on Long Island and I love the water, I’m known for my nautical sculptures.”
Daly is the star of the fifth annual Ice Festival in Port Jefferson as he will have 25 ice sculptures showcased throughout the village on Jan. 27 and 28.
“Our goal is to draw people to Port Jefferson during the off season. It was a huge success starting with the first year and has grown ever since,” says James Luciano, president of the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District, which hosts the event. “It’s a fun weekend for families in the dead of the winter when there’s not a lot going on.”
The festival features a variety of outdoor activities. Here are five things not to miss.
Daly’s ice sculptures are being placed in front of different local businesses like Southdown Coffee, Red Shirt Comics, The Fifth Season, New Bridge Realty, Wild Plant Shop, Fetch Doggy Boutique & Bakery and Tabu, featuring business logos, animals, movie characters and more.
“We always change things up so people can see new designs as they come back year after year,” says Daly. He'll swap out sculptures on Sunday too.
Two new big pieces for 2024 will be 6-foot sculptures of Spider-Man and Barbie, positioned next to each other on Mill Creek Road, which will be closed to use as an activity center in front of Port Jeff Brewing Company.
“Barbie and Spider-Man are going to be created prior to the festival in several pieces and assembled with lifts,” says Daly.
Many ice sculptures are being created specifically for selfies, such as a 6-foot ice throne that can hold up to four people on the corner of Main Street and Broadway. There’s also the return of the Valentine’s Day frame on Arden Place (across the street from Starbucks) as well as the most popular sculpture — the jaws of a shark.
“We do a different set every year,” says Daly. “Everyone can identify with it. It’s a fun one.”
The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual Mac & Cheese Crawl as part of the festivities. Sixteen local restaurants are participating in the event, including Barito Tacos & Cocktails, Castaways Steak & Seafood, Curry Club at SāGhar, Ferryman’s Grille at Danfords Hotel, Gourmet Burger Bistro, Nantuckets, Pasta Pasta (Saturday only), PJ Lobster House, Port Bistro & Pub, Revival by Toast, Spycoast, The Steam Room, The Whiskey Barrel, Tommy’s Place, Portside Bar & Grill and Torte Jeff Pie Company.
“People have a love affair with mac-and-cheese. It’s comfort food in the cold winter,” says Barbara Ransome, the chamber’s director of operations.
Those who purchase tickets ($30 per person) in advance can follow the walkable path and enjoy two 3-ounce samples of different styles of mac-and-cheese. Barito Tacos will be serving spicy Mexican mac-and-cheese with nacho cheese, pico de gallo, panko bread crumbs topped with Mexican crema. Curry Club at SāGhar offers mac-and-cheese tikka masala, which is tomato sauce based with a touch of cream and spices from the north of India. Torte Jeff Pie Co. is preparing a roasted apple and maple bacon mac-and-cheese, while Gourmet Burger Bistro has a blazing Buffalo chicken mac-and-cheese planned.
Daly will conduct live ice carvings each day at noon on Mill Creek Road (in front of Port Jeff Brewing Company), 2 p.m. in the Meadow parking lot by Rocketship Park and 4 p.m. in Pocket Park by Portside restaurant (behind Starbucks). Each live carving is made from 900 pounds. of ice.
“There could be up to 1,000 people watching at any given time. Sometimes I can’t see the end of the crowd,” says Daly. “Usually, people can’t tell what I’m carving until I get halfway through. As soon as they have an idea of what it is, they start yelling out guesses.”
Ice skating demos are set to take place at the Rinx at Harborfront Park, at 101-A E. Broadway, at 11:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 1 p.m. both days.
Live music will be played in front of Port Jeff Brewing Company by Eric McCormick on Saturday from 1-3 p.m. and The Castaways on Sunday from 2-4 p.m.
GAMES AND GIVEAWAYS
Engage in a game of ice golf, ice tic-tac-toe or ice corn hole in the walkway next to Chase Bank on Main Street. Then carve your name in the graffiti ice wall along the side of Kilwins on Main Street.
Roast complimentary marshmallows over an open fire in the Frigate parking lot or grab a free hot chocolate on the deck of PJ Lobster House.
HORSE AND CARRIAGE RIDES
Take a horse and carriage ride around the streets of Port Jeff from noon to 4 p.m. both days. Tickets are $5 per child (12 and younger), $10 per adult. Rides launch in front of the Harborview Christian Church on East Main Street. The 10-minute ride goes from East Main Street to Broadway up Main Street and back.
FIFTH ANNUAL ICE FESTIVAL
WHEN | WHERE Noon to 5 p.m. Jan. 27 and 28 (rain dates: Feb. 3 and 4), throughout the village of Port Jefferson
ADMISSION Free ($30 per ticket for the Mac & Cheese Crawl, must be purchased in advance; 631-473-1414, portjeffchamber.com; $5-10 for horse and carriage rides)