Driving along the white-laced streets of Auburn the morning after early February’s big snowstorm, I passed person after person out shoveling in the cold. In that moment, I felt a communal connection to my fellow Auburnians. This is what we do here in central New York. Like it or not, winter is our way of life for months on end, most years.

And so in honor of Old Man Winter, IGNITE, Cayuga County’s young professionals group, in partnership with the Auburn Downtown BID, will again host IGNITE the Winter! — a seasonal celebration to be held from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 1. This family-friendly festival promises fun for all ages, and offers many free activities outside on Exchange Street and inside Auburn Public Theater.

Throughout the night, spectators can watch two area ice artists demonstrate their craft. The Ice Farm will create an ice sculpture using a chainsaw, and handyman Joe Borasky will build an ice structure block by block. Alternative rock band Nightlite Mary will kick off the outdoor concert, followed by country/rock/blues band Silver Queen Casket Co. The Minturn Family will return to provide horse-drawn wagon rides around Loop Road. The Auburn Doubledays and Majorpalooza will sell beer and local wine. For food, area restaurants and organizations will sell $1 tastings of their best chili, chowder and soup recipes. Meatless options will be available for those observing Lent. This judged cook-off contest will have a People’s Choice award, giving folks a chance to vote for their favorites.

Inside Auburn Public Theater, festival-goers will find warmth, art, music, refreshments, and lots of cool activities for kids. Folks can grab a table and a drink in Stage Right (Exchange Street entrance) and enjoy live music from an eclectic four-band lineup: folk/funk/blues band Wooden Chalk and the Soup, folk pop duo Hysterical Fits, Nightlite Mary, and gypsy jazz duo Rue. All of this against the backdrop of Auburn Photography Club’s annual exhibition, featuring amazing images from more than a dozen talented and diverse local photographers.

Auburn Public Theater’s studio space fronting Genesee Street will be packed with family fun activities. MaxMan Reptile Rescue will handle live lizards and tortoises that children can interact with. Remembered by Rhys will set up an adjacent photo booth and take pictures throughout the night. Shogun Martial Arts will provide interactive crowd demonstrations. Creation Station will man an arts-and-crafts booth. Downtown Books & Coffee will provide storytelling and hot beverages. The Cayuga County Sheriff’s Office will run an Operation Safe Child ID table, where parents can register and fingerprint their children.

At the IGNITE booth on Exchange, we’ll be handing out some freebies to festival-goers to show our appreciation. We are humbled by the support we have received from the community to help launch and grow IGNITE the Winter! and we are so thankful to all of the entertainers and vendors who will be part of this special night. This event is made possible in part by funding awarded to IGNITE through the We Live New York Livable Communities Capacity Grant Program, and through the generous contributions of multiple local sponsors.

To the Auburn Downtown BID for helping to coordinate the cookoff, logistics and marketing; the Cayuga County Tourism Office for supporting regional promotion; Auburn Doubledays and Majorpalooza for handling beer and wine sales; Auburn Doubledays for donating cook-off prizes; the city of Auburn for helping with logistics; the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce for administrative support; the Auburn Public Theater for providing space and sound; the Auburn Photography Club for organizing a great show and helping with marketing materials; all of the area restaurants and organizations participating in the cook-off; all of the bands; all of the vendors providing activities for kids; cook-off judges Monika Salvage, Captain Jack, Sue Dwyer, Paul Ringwood and Steve Lynch; and to our corporate sponsors this year, including code_munkeys web development, Finger Lakes Radio, Quality Home Improvements by Joe Borasky, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Wegmans, Jacob’s Press, ImageAgent, ElderChoice, Bo-Mer Plastics, Karpinski, Stapleton, Galbato & Tehan PC, 84 Lumber and Coburn Design — we thank you a million times over.

For updates on all the latest event information, please visit us online at www.ignitethewinter.com, or find us on Facebook under IGNITE. See you on March 1!

Trish Ottley is a member of the steering committee and IGNITE the Winter! Festival organizing committee for IGNITE, Cayuga County's young professionals group. For more information about IGNITE, visit www.ignite-cny.org.

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