Fire dancers. Freezing floats in the Portneuf River. An insane relay race involving ice, wheelbarrows and shovels.
Sounds like a crazy combination, right? But at the Lava Hot Springs Fire & Ice Winterfest, such activities are just the tip of the iceberg (pun very much intended). This annual event is scheduled for Feb. 4-5 — and if past years are any indication, it will be one of the town’s biggest draws in 2022.
“We have this cold mountain atmosphere with snow and ice, and the fact that so many people are willing to come out and do these activities in the middle of winter is pretty great,” says Collin Petrun, a volunteer who organizes the performance by the fire dancers (and wields blazing torches along with them). “The days are short and the air is frigid, but we still have so many people who want to come out and see a fire performance.”
So many people, in fact, that Fire & Ice has been named one of the 10 zaniest winter festivals in the world. This strange and wonderful event got its start 16 years ago when Nathleen Rife, then a newcomer to Lava Hot Springs, suggested that the town start a winter carnival. She and local business owner Evalee Hill came up with the first wacky schedule of events.
“It really hasn’t changed too much since the first year,” Rife says. “It has just grown and grown and grown.”
Photo credit: Idaho Tourism
There will be plenty of opportunities for festival goers to brave the chill of early February, but the fire elements are left to the professionals. The fire portion of the event kicks off with a torchlight ski parade. Then, the fire dancers start their show.
Petrun is organizing a performance of between 10 and 15 dancers who come from as far away as California to perform. “It’s as good of a time for the performers as for the people who are watching,” he says.
So whether you’re looking for a polar bear float, a wine tasting, an excuse to wear a costume, or a chance to taste and judge local chili recipes at the Chili Tasting Competition, there’s something for you at Fire & Ice.
Friday, February 4
• Wine Tasting: What better way to stave off the cold than with a selection of Northwest wines and appetizers? Get in the mood for an evening of festivities and take home a commemorative wine glass, too! $40 entry fee.
• Crazy Relay Race: The kind folks at Ace Hardware will provide the goods for this insane race, which involves balancing ice while carrying not-so-aerodynamic tools (think shovels, wheelbarrows, sleds) down Main Street.
• Parade of Lights: Don’t pack those holiday lights away in the attic just yet! Decorate your car — and maybe yourself – for this free-form, freewheeling parade down Main Street.
Saturday, February 5
• Abominable Snowman: This magical creature will be wandering through town all day! If you spot it, ask for a selfie.
• Music, Food, and Fun: Enjoy all-day DJ music, kids’ activities, and a chilly “running of the bulls” — don your swimsuit and dash from the Lava Hot Springs Inn to the main pool at the Lava Hot Springs complex.
• Polar Bear Beer Garden: Pony up $20 and buy yourself a stein (three beers included) and entry to this fun-loving beer garden.
• Chili Tasting: Test out your famous recipe or just enjoy giving your reviews! This tasty event is famous for its variety of recipes. There will be prizes for the winners, too.
• Children’s Water Carnival: The Indoor Aquatic Center will be filled with games, prizes, and plenty of splashing and swimming. Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
• Polar Bear Float: Are you brave enough to float the Portneuf in February? Join a crazy crowd of costumed revelers as they make their way down the river in inner tubes.
Photo credit: Idaho Tourism
• Penguin Race: Buy one penguin for $5 or five for $20, then drop them into the Portneuf River from the Third Street bridge. The first few to be “rescued” by their final destination near the Community Center will win prizes.
• Torchlight Parade: Around dusk, look to the “L” above Lava and watch a fantastic parade of torchbearing skiers gracefully zigzag down the mountain.
• Fire Dancers: The big show begins after the torchlight parade! Fire dancers from multiple states will wow you with their pyrotechnic skills and put on a dazzling display of light.
• Fireworks: Enjoy this new addition to the schedule following the fire dancers show.
• Community Center Entertainment: Wrap up the festival with a performance by Kip Attaway, a singer/songwriter/comedian. Entry fee will be $20.
You can check out a full schedule of events, including start times and prices, at https://fireice.lavahotsprings.org.