Dozens of people from the city and away could be seen from the Harbor Walk to Post Office Square in downtown Belfast Feb. 27 during the Ice Festival. People fought through rain and sleet to see all the ice sculptures placed around town and watch several sculpting demonstrations.

By noon, parking in downtown was almost full and several groups of people could be seen searching for ice sculptures to take photos with at the event organized by Our Town Belfast. Ice sculpture designs included baby Yoda, a boat, a chair, a cat, a penguin and others.

Ice sculptor Jesse Bouchard said events like this always bring people out, and children enjoy seeing all the ice designs. He is based in Raymond, but participates in sculpting events every winter. He has traveled into Belfast while staying at his family camp in Liberty, so he is familiar with the city.

His friend Tina Delsanto, owner of Delvino’s Grill and Pasta House, connected him with Our Town Belfast to craft ice sculptures for the event and do demonstrations. Bouchard also crafted Delvino’s and Rollie’s ice bars for the festival.

Ryan Otis, Rollie’s owner, said all the parking spaces in downtown were full during the event. “I mean, it’s Saturday in February and there’s no place to park in town,” he said.

As one of only a few restaurants open in downtown right now, he said Rollie's has been busy on Saturdays. He thinks the event gives people a reason to “get out of their house, do something different,” he said.

Otis said he thinks the event has a lot of potential to be way bigger than it is. Our Town Belfast Executive Director Zach Schmesser said he thinks it could be an annual event and has had discussions about how it could be expanded.

Some businesses in town noticed an uptick in traffic, but could not immediately say whether it resulted in an increase in sales. Coyote Moon employee Tara Ambrose said she noticed a lot of new faces in the store, something she has not experienced in the last few months.

Katwalk employee Liz Lesser said the store has seen good business on Saturdays, but during the festival she noticed an increase in traffic into the store and a lot of new faces as well.

Nate, Gayle and Bailey Ellis of Dexter were going to attend an event in Boothbay, but it was canceled because of the weather. So, they came to Belfast instead of “throwing the weekend away,” Gayle said.

Brenda Storey and her husband, Sean, came from Northport to the event with their young son, Jeffrey, who proudly perched on the ice sculpture chair during the event. Storey grew up in the area and likes attending events in Belfast every year, she said.

She said as a Mainer she is used to having to adapt to harsh weather conditions that are present at some events, so they braved the rain and sleet to see ice sculptures.

Ambrose said she felt grateful to live in a town like Belfast that supports its local businesses. The festival is one of many events that brings the community together and supports its downtown shops. The community feels like a fun family and she said thanks to the city for having the bravery to be optimistic, and being bold enough to do something fun during the pandemic.

“To have a reason to come and be in the world, and be out of their pajamas — you can just feel how grateful people are,” she said.