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The Winter Lights Festival

The Ithaca Commons are lit up by the kickoff of the two weekend-long Winter Lights Festival. The event started Friday, Dec. 3rd and will continue the festivities this upcoming weekend from Dec. 10th–11th.

The festival is filled with interactive activities and entertainment for all ages. A silent disco, a 10-feet-tall light-up unicorn, hula-hoop and fire dancers do not typically scream holiday season, but in Ithaca, these untraditional holiday experiences are welcomed.

a scene of silent disco dancers with a woman waving on the light up unicorn in the background
It’s holiday season in Ithaca, N.Y. A group effort from the City of Ithaca, the Tompkins Trust Company, Visit Ithaca, Tompkins Chamber, I Love N.Y. and the Tompkins TCAT provides locals and visitors with a winter experience in an Ithaca fashion.

The crowd varied from Ithaca College students to out-of-town visitors, but they were all there for the same reason, to join in on the holiday cheer.

“It’s cool that [the Winter Lights Festival is] paired up with the arts festival–or the gallery night– so it’s kind of nice to walk around and go into different shops,” Shelby said.

Ithaca College students could also be found taking a much-needed break amidst finals to join in the holiday spirit. Amanda Karmolinski, IC student, went to the event for her first time this weekend.

“I’ve never come to it before, and usually get really stuck in finals but getting out and seeing trees, decorations and events feels more Christmassy,” Karmolinski said.

Grigas and Karmolinski standing in front of the decorated and lit up Christmas tree in the commons
IC seniors, Grigas (left) and Karmolinski (right), at the Winter Lights Festival.

Karmolinki attended the event with her friend and fellow IC student, Amanda Grigas, Friday night. Grigas and Karmolinski said they live just a few streets up from the Commons and the festival got them into the Christmas spirit.

“Being the start of December, [the Winter Lights Festival] kind of got me more into the Christmas spirit,” Grigas said. “I love the lights and it makes the Commons a nice place to come down to.”

Grigas expressed gratefulness for going to a school in a college town with such a sense for community, especially during the holiday seasons.

Fire dancers at a Winter themed festival?

Why have fire dancers at a Winter Lights Festival? Acadia Otlowski, a fire dancer and aerialist, said having fire dancing as entertainment for this event provides a contrast to ice.

This was Otlowski’s first time performing in Ithaca, but not her first time in Ithaca. Otlowski attended Ithaca College.

No further than 20-feet away from the two large chair ice sculptures, attendees of the festival–wearing winter coats, mittens and hats–were gathered around, watching Otlowski and other fire dancers do tricks with fire.

A child on their parents shoulders watching the fire dancing
“I really like spinning fire for kids,” Otlowski said. “I really like getting to see them lit up by it and watching their eyes be like: ‘Woah!’ This is the first time they’ve seen something like that and [it’s] broadening their horizons, it feels really good.”
Another attraction of the event were performances by LED hula-hoop dancers. Children and adults could be observed mimicking the movements of the performers and were given the opportunity to dance with hula-hoops as well in-between sets.

Grigas said that her favorite performance to watch was the hula-hooping and that while watching the fire dancers perform, she did feel a bit warmer than before.

If you were unable to attend this past weekend, or went and want to go again, a list of events and times for this upcoming weekend can be found here.

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