The annual HarborFrost festival, Sag Harbor Village’s answer to the winter blues, returns after its obligatory COVID-19 hiatus to shine its light ever brighter during this cold, dark time of year.
Founded by the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce in 2011, HarborFrost has become a cherished village tradition highlighting three key elements each year: fire, ice and fun. Now in its 11th incarnation, familiar attractions return, new outdoor events have been added, and the community is eagerly anticipating their chance to safely commune on Saturday, February 5, 1–6 p.m.
While hosting large events is especially difficult in this “new normal,” the path to HarborFrost was paved by its warm-weather counterpart, HarborFest, which returned after a year off in September 2021. The bigger of the two events, HarborFest went off without a hitch — no negative feedback nor reports of guests feeling unsafe in the new fully-outdoor format.
“HarborFest was a little bit of a bigger decision, in some ways, because more of the events are not so easy to be socially distanced, and it’s also a time of year when it’s more crowded out here,” says Ellen Dioguardi, president of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce. “That helped with the hurdle of deciding to do HarborFrost. But we did scale back what normally would be going on.”
One such method of scaling back is the removal of restaurant events and dining specials as part of the official HarborFrost schedule. “We usually would have the restaurants promoting a little bit more — specials and having more of a dining theme to it,” Dioguardi explains. “We opted not to go down that road this year. And we didn’t do the live music inside any venues, which also used to be done and would be promoted by the Sag Harbor American Music Festival. We kept it so that everything would be outdoors.”
In discussing this new direction, Kelly Dodds, president of the Sag Harbor American Music Festival, suggested the festival’s newest headliner: “Sag Harbor’s own DJ Twilo,” as Dioguardi describes her. Hot off her cameo on Sex and the City sequel And Just Like That…, DJ Twilo is hosting an outdoor dance party in John Steinbeck Waterfront Park. The epic show, scheduled 4–5 p.m., is being presented by the music festival, so it’s sure to match the high-caliber fun and intensity the festival is know for.
“That’s something that might turn out being a new favorite,” Dioguardi says of this promising addition to HarborFrost.
Looking at HarborFrost’s impressive 2022 schedule, one might confuse ZIMA! for the festival’s second new addition, but, in fact, this fascinating theatrical scavenger hunt from the Neo-Political Cowgirls is a returning favorite that hasn’t been seen at HarborFrost for six or so years. Looking through past events for something “more entertaining and more varied,” Dioguardi and the HarborFrost planning committee rediscovered this gem that had already proven to be a hit as an outdoor attraction. This year’s rendition will celebrate the poetic nature of this season of cold and darkness, immersing audiences in hidden vignettes of wildly costumed storytellers. Attendees who arrive in groups will be given a map and then embark on their journey from the Main and Madison streets’ Civil War Memorial at set 15-minute intervals: 1 p.m., 1:15 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Each adventure is open to all ages and takes approximately 45 minutes to one hour to complete. The suggested donation is $20 per group.
So there’s plenty of fun scheduled, but where’s the ice? Where’s the fire?
As any Sag Harbor resident could explain, the ice comes to HarborFrost courtesy of Rich Daly, owner of Ice Melodies and Guinness World Records 2013’s fastest ice carver in the world. He’ll once again be performing a live carving demonstration where he’ll transform basic ice blocks into a grand ice sculpture that will dazzle onlookers.
“The kids really love that — love watching it, love seeing how it’s done — and I think the adults do, too,” Dioguardi says of the ice carving demonstration, which runs 2:30–4 p.m. in Steinbeck Park.
The village will also be packed with smaller ice sculptures purchased from Ice Melodies by numerous Sag Harbor Chamber businesses. These will appear on the sidewalks in front of their respective businesses or, for the non-village and non-brick-and-mortar businesses, in Steinbeck Park. With 27 ice sculptures purchased by the end of January, the highest number in HarborFrost history, the planning committee felt inspired to do something special to mark the occasion. Thus, a photo contest was created that tasks attendees with finding and photographing each of the mini ice sculptures, posting the photos on a public social media account and tagging the Sag Harbor Chamber and each business represented. Those who find, photograph and post all 27 ice sculptures will be entered for a chance to win fabulous prizes.
“We had a really resounding response to (this year’s ice sculpture purchases), so we decided to do this little contest,” Dioguardi explains. “We just sort of came up with it when we realized that we were selling over the number that we normally had sold.”
As for the festival’s fire fix, things will begin to heat up at Windmill Beach at 5:15 p.m. There, fire juggler Keith Leaf and fire dancers The Fiery Sensations will perform their hot, hot show as the sun begins to set. Once the night falls at 5:45 p.m., the dark Sag Harbor sky will be set ablaze by the Grucci family’s world-famous fireworks show above the harbor and Long Wharf.
“I am a big fireworks fan, as long as it’s done far enough away from any of my dogs so they don’t get upset,” Dioguardi shares. “It’s just beautiful. There’s nothing, for me, like fireworks in the winter when the weather’s right and the lights are glistening off the snow.”
With so much fun, ice and fire stuffed into a single day, HarborFrost 2022 looks to be a much-needed chance to safely come together as a community to celebrate the unmatched charm of Sag Harbor and spread a sense of hopeful optimism throughout the East End.
“This year is about giving people a sense of optimism that things are not all shut down, that we can still gather safely, that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak,” Dioguardi says, noting that HarborFrost’s goal is not to fundraise for the Chamber. “This actually costs us quite a bit of money, but it’s worth it, not only because it brings people to the village — and hopefully they’ll shop and dine, etcetera — but also to provide a sense of community and positivity. It is light and hope in the middle of a dark time of year, always.”
To learn more about HarborFrost, visit sagharborchamber.com.