This Year’s Reading Fire + Ice Fest To Be Dedicated to John Slifko

In honor of his unwavering dedication to the city of Reading, this year’s Reading Fire + Ice Fest is being held in honor of Reading City Council Vice President John Slifko, who died unexpectedly earlier this month.

“Given all that John did for the city both as a City Council member and as a private citizen, we thought it was appropriate to honor his legacy by dedicating 2019 Reading Fire + Ice Fest to him,” said Daniel B. Laws Jr., Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Reading Downtown Improvement District, which stages the festival.

He added that in further remembrance, a special ice sculpture is being created to recognize the councilman. The sculpture will be unveiled during the festival’s opening ceremonies Friday night at 5:30 in the 500 block of Penn Street.

Charles R. Broad, Executive Director of the Improvement District, noted that Slifko was a staunch supporter of the District and its ongoing efforts to maintain a clean, green, and safe downtown environment.

“John served as a liaison between City Council and the Improvement District’s board of directors, and we valued the input and insights he brought to the table,” Broad said. “He also was actively involved with the city’s former Main Street Program, which was managed by the District. We were very fortunate to have John’s steadfast guidance over the years.”

Slifko died January 11, four days after falling ill at a City Council meeting.

Reading Fire + Ice Fest will be held Friday night between 5:30 and 10 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. Only severe weather conditions will prevent the festival from being held.

Fireworks originally scheduled for the New Year’s Eve celebration at the Pagoda will be part of the festival. The annual aerial display was canceled because of inclement weather, but is now scheduled to go off Friday at 9 p.m., weather permitting.

In addition to the fireworks, another new twist to this year’s fest is the debut of a new brew called McKinley's Prosperity Stout, which will be served up by Saucony Creek Brewing Company, one of the festival vendors. Sales of the brew will help raise funds for the restoration of the William McKinley monument in City Park.

Reading Fire + Ice Fest will once again feature a variety of both indoor and outdoor activities, including a Snowfall Ball, professional ice-carving competitions, fire performances, a chili cook-off, a large food and beverage tent, live music, and food trucks. All outdoor activities will be free, and the chili cook-off and Snowfall Ball will have nominal entry fees.

Scheduled to perform at the Snowfall Ball on Saturday, January 19 is The Uptown Band, one of the country's most versatile acts that feature an exciting and eclectic mix of music. The “casual dress” ball will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading hotel ballroom. Doors will open at 6 p.m.

Sculpted Ice Works, located near Scranton, Pa., will rejoin Reading Fire + Ice Fest with spectacular ice sculpture displays and carving competitions. Established in 1999, Sculpted Ice Works is a full-service ice event company with several members of the National Ice Carving Association, and is owned by Mark Crouthamel, a carver with more than 20 years of experience under his belt.

Returning again to thrill audiences with their heart-stopping fire performances will be Madeleine Belle from Philadelphia and Flame Nouveau from Allentown.

Reading Fire + Ice Fest is organized and presented by the Reading Downtown Improvement District and supported in large part by a generous grant from the Hawley and Myrtle Quier Fund of Berks County Community Foundation.

 About the Reading Downtown Improvement District

The Reading Downtown Improvement District is focused on creating a vital, productive and commercially active environment in downtown Reading. The Improvement District provides cleaning, security and marketing services for a specially designated commercial district in the city, and also sponsors several events and activities throughout the year, including MidDay Cafes, Reading Holiday Parade, and Reading Fire + Ice Fest. The Improvement District continually strives to make downtown Reading a cleaner, safer and more inviting place to live, work and visit.

New brew to make debut at Reading Fire + Ice Fest

For immediate release – Celebrate the area’s beer history and the skills of today’s local craft beer brewers by raising a glass of this beautiful stout to help repair the statue of President William McKinley in Reading City Park.

Berks Brewers Guild members Broken Chair Brewery and Chatty Monks, both based in West Reading; Oakbrook Brewing Company, in the Millmont section of Reading; Saucony Creek Brewing Company, Kutztown; and the 1787 Brewing Company, Hamburg, have again collaborated for a great cause.

This time, the collaboration has produced McKinley's Prosperity Stout, a new brew to help raise funds for the restoration of the William McKinley monument that sits just to the right of the Frederick Lauer monument along Perkiomen Avenue in City Park. The statue itself is in pretty good shape, but the marble base is shifting a bit after a century – and we want to make sure the tribute to the martyred commander-in-chief will be in good standing for years to come.

McKinley's Prosperity Stout will be debuted at the annual Reading Fire + Ice Fest on January 18 and 19 in downtown Reading. Beer aficionados can savor this great new brew – and simultaneously help fund the restoration effort – at the Saucony Brewing Company stand at the festival.

Here is a description of the stout from its creators:

The William McKinley Prosperity Stout is a milk and honey oatmeal stout boasting rich flavors; it’s creamy and delightful. It is brewed with rolled oats, lactose, chocolate malts, and Pennsylvania wildflower honey. 6.7% abv

William McKinley was the 25th president of the United States, serving from March 4, 1897, until his assassination six months into his second term in September 1901. He was the third president to be assassinated. McKinley was the last president to have served in the American

Civil War and the only one to have started the war as an enlisted private in the Union Army and ending as a brevet major.

Edward L. A. Pausch, a Danish-born sculptor, was summoned to Buffalo to make a death mask of McKinley shortly after his death. Death masks, usually made of wax or plaster of Paris, were common for major personalities of the time. In 1903, Pausch was commissioned to create a sculpture of McKinley for a monument to be erected in Penn's Commons, now Reading City Park, by the Reading Board of Trade, a predecessor of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce. The death mask was used as a model for the face on the Reading sculpture, which shows the president in a double-breasted, knee-length coat holding a copy of the speech he delivered at the Pan-American Exposition. The monument was dedicated with great fanfare on June 8, 1905. It was the first McKinley monument in Pennsylvania. A year later, on the fifth anniversary of his death, the McKinley statue was featured in a Page One article in The Washington Post.

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