As Rich Daly carved a fireman sculpture out of 2,400 pounds of ice Saturday, he quickly noticed how difficult it was in the balmy weather.
Last year, at Sag Harbor’s HarborFrost festival, Daly, owner of Ice Melodies in Mastic Beach, easily carved ice in much chillier temperatures.
“This year, I’m taking a bath,” said a drenched Daly, 37, laughing as his fireman’s statue glistened in the heat and water dripped from the carved hose.
In unusually warm February weather, hundreds of people gathered outside Saturday for the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce’s seventh annual festival of fire and ice known as HarborFrost.
As crowds wandered along Main Street down to Windmill Beach, they ate hot dogs and warm meatballs, drank hot chocolate and took in a fireworks show. Attendees also watched ice sculptors carve everything from firefighters to fire jugglers and witnessed dozens plunge into Windmill Beach’s waters for the Frosty Plunge swim — all in 60-degree weather.
Bruce Stafford, 59, a firefighter and longtime Sag Harbor resident, takes part in the normally freezing plunge every year.
“This time, it was nice and refreshing,” he said. “Like being in the water in July.”
Lisa Field, the chamber’s president, called the day “fabulous,” adding that warm weather had brought even more people out this year.
The mild weather was a welcome change for Keith Leaf, 46, of East Hampton, who dazzled crowds with his flaming rope-twirling circus arts during his Amazing Fire Juggling Show.
“It’s definitely much easier to do this in warmer weather,” said Leaf, who welcomed the chance to sport his black-and-white-trimmed T-shirt instead of multiple layers.
As Sag Harbor residents Maureen McNeill and Clare Ambrose gathered near the beach with friends, they noticed one key thing missing at this year’s HarborFrost: namely, the frost.
“The ground was all covered in ice last year,” said McNeill, who noted that Saturday’s temperatures allowed them to spend more time outside.
As for Daly and the other ice sculptors, stacking three 800-pound blocks of ice was especially challenging, and they strategically positioned their ice statues to prevent faster melting.
“It’s definitely rough, but it’s drawn a huge crowd today, and that’s what its all about,” a smiling Daly said. “I’ll deal with getting wet.”