Laura Ancherani, executive director of the Abington Business and Professional Association (ABPA), has helped to plan the Clarks Summit Festival of Ice for the past 13 years. The festival began in 2005, the brainchild of Maryann Nichols and Dorothy O’Connor. Seeing a similar ice festival in Lewistown, Nichols and O’Connor thought it would be a boost for Abington businesses and provide a fun family-friendly activity for the community.
What began as a low-key winter event has grown into a themed weekend festival drawing between 25,000 and 30,000 people to the borough each year. The creative theme ideas have elevated the Clarks Summit Festival of Ice over recent years and been well received as the festival has grown. Renaissance, fairy tales, circus, broadway, Harry Potter and last year’s Star Wars themes were popular with attendees.
The ice festival offers something new every year and involves local businesses and organizations.
“We broke the elevator the weekend we did Harry Potter,” Ancherani said. “We didn’t anticipate so many people. The festival has really grown and been well attended.”
Ancherani said the theme idea for the festival usually comes to the committee members when they’re in the midst of working on the one from the year before. As the Festival of Ice began including bigger themes, the ABPA started gearing festival events and entertainment around the theme and working with local organizations to carry the theme throughout the festival.
“We’ve had so much support with our festival themes. We always try to make sure the theme we choose is broad enough and has a wide age range that it appeals to. This year’s theme can appeal not only to kids but to those who remember having Atari or the earlier Nintendo models as children. I remember my Dad playing video games with my brother when we were young. Video games have a vast audience.”
Born and raised in Moosic, Ancherani graduated from Riverside High School and attended Marywood University. She resides in Waverly Township with her husband, Anthony; daughter, Lorelei and two cats, Buddy and Little Buddy (also known as “LB”).
Ancherani has served as the ABPA’s executive director since 2008. She juggles parenting her 12-year-old daughter and a full calendar, which includes teaching dance, yoga, meditation and healing sessions at local businesses.
“Lorelei was a baby when I began as executive director of the ABPA,” she said. “I used to bring her in her baby carrier with me to meetings.”
Ancerani said she is happy to serve the community.
“I love to be able to help the businesses give back to the community,” she said. “I feel like it’s important for local businesses and community members to value each other and to see what that connection can bring. As a consumer, when you see businesses participating in something like the ice festival, and then it comes time for you to shop, you take that into consideration, and you give back to the business. It’s a win-win relationship.”
Ancherani said it takes several pieces coming together to make the festival successful each year. Working with Mark Crouthamel of Sculpted Ice Works, area businesses and planning committee members Anne Armezzani, Janice Bevacqua, Sandy Longo, Jessica Nemetz and Renee Roberts, Ancherani oversees the collaboration of the ABPA’s largest community event.
This year, the theme is “ICEtendo.” Ancherani said attendees can expect to see game-themed activities throughout the festival.
“Every year, we try to bring in something new that goes with our theme. This year, we will have a gaming trailer. It’s a mobile gaming theater with 10 different gaming stations and over 250 games that you can play. It will be available on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.”
The cost to play will be $5 per person for a set amount of time.
The ice carving competition, which was new last year, will be back again. This is scheduled for Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
“The festival gets people outside during a time when a lot of people would be hibernating during the colder months,” Ancherani said. “And it supports our local businesses. The Festival of Ice is a testament to the Abingtons. This area is very different from other towns. We have a great community spirit and sense of togetherness. Businesses recommend other local businesses and support one another. They very much see the value in community. These businesses provide a free festival to give back to the community.
“This festival supports the arts too. It is recognized as an art event with the ice sculptures, live music and performances we’ve had over the years. The festival gives back on multiple levels. It’s beautiful in that sense, how the whole thing has come together.”
For more information on the festival and a full schedule of events, see the official program guide inserted in today’s Abington Suburban, or visit theabingtons.org.
Julie Jeffery Manwarren is a freelance writer and photographer who enjoys reading, writing and historical research. She has called the Abingtons home for more than two decades and resides here with her husband Phil and their two children. Reach her at email@example.com.