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Ithaca Commons holiday events include Light Festival, Santa

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Sculptors carved a knight, a dragon, a discus thrower, a heart with wings and more out of ice during the 12 annual Ithaca Ice Fest.
Matt Steecker, ithacajournal.com | @MSteecker

The Commons will be aglow this December when a new festival takes over downtown Ithaca.

The Winter Light Festival, hosted by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, will be held from Dec. 5 to 15 and features Prismatica, an art trail of 25 luminous and interactive prisms that will be on display on the Commons throughout the festival.

Prismatica is taking the place of the Ice Festival this year because of the concern the weather may be unreliable for ice sculptures. Organizers also want to avoid any acts of vandalism, which have affected ice statues in the past.

“Last year, the biggest challenge was vandalism. It was really hard to bring in, and the day after, the parts were destroyed,” said Allison Graffin, marketing director of the DIA. “The year before, the 50- to 60-degree weather doubled our costs because we had to purchase more ice. If it’s 60 degrees, the weather will melt the ice quickly, and the sculptures will melt away.”

Organizers touted the interactive elements of the prisms when asked why residents will enjoy Prismatica.

“You can spin the prisms, and if you touch them, they will change color,” said Darlene Donohue, spokeswoman for the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.

“They are interactive, so parents can let kids touch them without yelling at them about parts breaking,” Graffin said.

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Ithaca competed against large metro areas to draw Prismatica to the city. Having been featured in larger cities such as New York City and Cleveland, this year marks the first time the art trail will be featured in a city the size of Ithaca.

While Prismatica will replace ice sculptures this year, organizers are not eliminating the possibility of having another ice festivals in the future.

There are also several new events planned for December as well, including a winter lightsaber tournament planned for Dec. 13, and the Let’s Glow Ithaca Parade on Dec. 14. Residents will receive glow sticks for the parade.

In addition to the glowsticks, there will also be an illuminated lotus, as well as an illuminated Sparky the Unicorn.

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Santa’s arrival and more

Of course, several traditions will be making a return to downtown.

The Chowder Cook-Off will be from noon to 5 p.m. Dec. 7, and Santa’s arrival is Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

The cook-off is in its 10th year, and will feature 30 to 40 restaurants and participants. 

Advance sale tickets for Chowder Cook-Off are available, cash only, at the Downtown Ithaca Visitor Center, inside of Tompkins Center for History & Culture at 110 N. Tioga St., on the Commons, Dec. 2-6. Ten tickets will cost $10.

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Tickets will also be available at the Chowder Cook-Off ticket booth on Saturday.

During Santa’s arrival, there will be live performances with dancing and music, including the Fall Creek Brass Band, and carolers planned for the event. The tradition will continue with Santa repelling down Center Ithaca.

Those attending the event can get a candy cane from Rudolph and write letters to Santa.

New to this year, kids can take pictures with Santa at his sled.

“We are looking for what makes Ithaca special … and finding what we already have and celebrating it,” Graffin said. “We’re hoping this will show people what a great place Ithaca is.”

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