Shelley A. Sackett
Salem will look like a mid-winter’s night dream on Saturday, Feb. 10 when dozens of illuminated ice sculptures beckon even the most thin-blooded to bundle up and stroll the historic city’s streets.
As if the magic of glistening ice sculptures were not treat enough, there will also be delectable chocolate samples, trolley rides and discount Valentine’s Day shopping during Salem’s sweetest event of the year: the 16th annual Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate & Ice Sculpture Festival.
From Friday, Feb. 9 through Sunday, Feb. 11, Salem Main Streets, the Salem Chamber of Commerce, Destination Salem, and local businesses work together to create the much-anticipated weekend that helps distract from the long, cold slog of New England winters.
The festival kicks off officially on Friday, Feb. 9 with a Chocolate and Wine Tasting at Colonial Hall at Rockafellas, 231 Essex St. from 6:30–8:30 p.m. Featuring wine and chocolate samplings and music by Molly Pinto Madigan, the event is the highlight of the season and sold out early in past years. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased in person at the Salem Chamber of Commerce, by phone at 978-744-0004 or online at salemsosweet.com.
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, many downtown businesses will offer free chocolate samplings and sweet discounts. The “Golden Ticket” is a 10 percent discount valid Feb. 10 and 11 only: shoppers making a full-price purchase at one participating downtown business receive a 10 percent discount off the next purchase at a participating business. The tickets are inserted in brochures found throughout the city.
Photographer John Andrews, whose organization Creative Salem supports community-based festivals and often teams up with Salem Main Streets, said Creative Salem has introduced two new Salem’s So Sweet events this year.
Galentine’s Day at Ledger restaurant on Saturday, Feb. 10 will celebrate ladies celebrating ladies. Inspired by the Amy Poehler character from the show “Parks and Rec,” the event features a nighttime brunch, DJ and photo booth. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit eventbrite.com/e/galentines-day-at-ledger-tickets-41705352833.
On Sunday, Feb. 11, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Creative Salem will host the first Pop Rocks Pop Up Craft Market at Old Town Hall, with dozens of local artisans.
“Midwinter is challenging for small downtown businesses,” Andrews said. “We are happy that Salem Main Streets and other organizations are constantly working to support the business, creative and resident communities.”
Even though Salem is abuzz with these various exciting activities and events, the ice sculptures steal the show as well as people’s hearts.
Last year, there were a record-breaking 25 ice sculptures installed around downtown and for the second time local company Retronica illuminated them on Saturday night “which really adds a whole new sense of celebration in the face of February’s cold, dark nights,” said Salem Main Streets Executive Director Kylie Sullivan.
Sullivan has two favorite festival moments. One is about mid-day on Saturday, when everyone begins discovering the sculptures for the first time.
“But the illumination on Saturday night has also become one of my favorites,” she said. “To look around and see the downtown so full of people of all ages, locals and visitors – on a night in the middle of February when you wouldn’t normally see anyone out – is so cool and is really the reason we have the festival in the first place,” she said.
Mayor Kim Driscoll agrees.
“The Salem’s So Sweet Festival is a unique and festive way to celebrate this season and all the terrific local businesses that participate,” she said. “I hope folks will have the opportunity to get to the many events, restaurants, and shops taking part this year. I’m especially looking forward to what we’ll see with this year’s ice sculptures.”