Festival warms wintry feelings

Kamariea Forcier

As day fell into night Saturday, residents of the Prospect Park neighborhood came together to celebrate community spirit in the midst of winter’s extremes.
A bonfire cast an inviting glow over the second annual Fire and Ice Festival in Luxton Park. Despite warmer-than-average temperatures Saturday, the neighborhood residents still shivered occasionally. But everyone attending the event still sported smiles on their winter-flushed faces.
More than 150 neighborhood residents ventured to Luxton Park, located on Williams Avenue in the Prospect Park community, for the festival. It is just blocks from Stadium Village, a major residential area for University students.
“(The festival) was organized specifically for winter activities for building community and the family,” said Paula Denman, an organizer of the event.
Denman, representing the Prospect Park and East River Road Improvement Association, worked in cooperation with Eastside Neighborhood Service Incorporated to plan a festival that would bring area children together along with neighbors.
She said no elementary school serves the neighborhood, so children are bused to other communities and don’t often get to meet neighborhood friends.
“We hoped to bring kids together to get to know each other,” Denman said.
Children, parents and neighbors enjoyed outdoor festivities including a horse-drawn hayride through the park, ice-skating, a bonfire and a hockey demonstration by an intramural hockey team at the University.
A seemingly endless stream of children poured out from the adjacent park building as Millie and Mack, the 11- and 12-year-old Belgian horses pulled up with their wagon for the hayride.
“Giddy-up, giddy-up,” the children shouted in a chorus of voices as the wagon slowly pulled away from the building.
Jeff Gottliebs, along with His 8-year-old son Ben and 6-year-old son Josh, rode the wagon as it left the park for a trip through the neighborhood streets.
“Dad, can you still smell the fire?” asked Ben.
“Now and then,” replied his father, pointing at the park between the rows of houses. “Look, you can probably see it.”
Gottliebs said the weather was perfect for the event this year but even bad weather wouldn’t have stopped him.
“Last year it was too nasty,” he said. “But this year we were going to come, regardless. Thank goodness it was nice out.”
Julie Paquette, a University senior majoring in sociology, showed up for fun and to volunteer.
Paquette works for Wintersplash, an outdoor activities program for children. She also spends time working with the Prospect Park neighborhood association.
Getting University students more involved in community activities is one of the current concerns for the group, she said.
“We’ve been trying to get people more involved,” said Paquette. “We’re kind of at the doorstep of the University.”
Several other University students who reside in Prospect Park also showed up to enjoy the festivities.
Steve Mattson, a senior studying medical technology at the University, said it was a “good way to rub elbows with the neighbors.”
And, he added, “It’s a good clean way to have a good time.”