Excerpt republished from The Ligonier Echo. Article by Deborah A. Brehun.

Ernie DiMartino and his band of ice-carving artisans will take over the Ligonier Diamond this weekend, resulting in a crystallizing display of frozen water and whimsical creativity — all in the name of the Ligonier Ice Fest. The major crowd-drawing event is orchestrated by the Chamber of Commerce and its members to bring people to Ligonier to enjoy the outdoors and everything else the town has to offer at the end of January.

“Grab a warm drink and enjoy the ice masterpieces around town! The Ligonier Ice Fest features nearly 60 ice sculptures, many hand-carved while you watch,” said Susan Grunstra, the Chamber’s executive director. ligon

The DiMartino Ice Co. of Jeannette has been hand-carved frozen art from 300-pound blocks of tempered ice since the first festival in 1992. That is when DiMartino was contacted by an area radio station to demonstrate his ice carving skills at a promotional event in Ligonier. From there it became an annual event in Ligonier, at first as a competitive carving event and eventually as a display of 40 to 50 business/merchant sponsored sculpted ice forms. DiMartino now conducts 14 festivals every season.

It doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside, if it’s 7 or 70, people will come,” said Ice Fest Chairwoman Cindy Purnell. “It’s the end of January and people are ready to get outside and do something fun.

The goal of the DiMartino Ice Co. is to create a stimulating setting that gets people in the community bundled up and enjoying themselves. DiMartino, the company’s president, said some of their best work is done in the heart of a thriving town. Ligonier is one of those towns, in fact, it was the first town, 26 years ago.

Roger Luther, then owner of the Ligonier Subway Restaurant and a member of the Chamber’s merchants committee, coordinated the first festival. Cindy Purnell, owner of the Post and Rail Men’s Shop, has been coordinating the event since 2001.

DiMartino said the coordinators are the driving force to keep the ice fests going. He said the Ligonier Ice Fest is special to him because he has an appreciation for what it stands for as a community working together. What makes the Ligonier event so special, according to DiMartino, is chairwoman Purnell.

“Of all 14 events we do, Cindy takes a personal interest in every design and tries to satisfy the sponsor, she tries to satisfy the spectator and she tries to satisfy the sculptors and our desire to create something that is unique, ornate and something very artistic in nature,” DiMartino said. “She really does stress over each and every design because she wants the show to be a success in every aspect. That is what makes it so special, the appreciation of her putting her heart and soul into it,”

Purnell admits she i driven to make the Ice Fest a unique experience for the spectators who come to view the sculptures. “We work hard to bring different, unique, creative art designs every year. We work very heard to bring newness to the event,” Purnell said.