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‘Fire on Ice’ Mega Chanukah Celebration Returning to West Hartford for 2021

Attorney Coleman Levy lights the first Chanukah light on the ice menorah in Blue Back Square while Rabbi Shaya Gopin looks on. Chabad of Greater Hartford's Fire on Ice. Blue Back Square, West Hartford. Dec. 2, 2018. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The area’s largest Chanukah celebration will return to West Hartford Town Hall in 2021, and can be enjoyed either in person or as a drive-in event.

By Ronni Newton

The community will be able to gather for the first night of Chanukah – surrounded by family and friends as they watch a giant menorah being carved from a block of ice, and then celebrate as it’s lighted – or they may choose to stay in their cars and observe the festivities in a drive-in format, with either option offering the opportunity for the festive observance of the holiday signifying the triumph of light over darkness.

The event will begin at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, and is free and open to all.

Fire on Ice has traditionally been held in the courtyard of Blue Back Square and on Isham Road, and for more than a decade has attracted large crowds that would cram shoulder-to-shoulder as they enjoyed the festivities. Amid the restrictions of 2020 it was held exclusively as a drive-in event several hundred yards to the southwest, in the West Hartford Town Hall parking lot.

This year, to ensure that the event remains safe and comfortable for all, it will be held in hybrid format, returning to the Town Hall parking lot where there is more room to spread out, and where those who feel more comfortable can observe from their vehicles.

A giant “LED Wall” will enable those who drive in to see and “be part of” the event.

The message of hope and light remains more crucial than ever during what has been a difficult time in history, organizers said.

“The menorah serves as a symbol of light and hope for us today amidst the darkness and challenges of the pandemic, as it did for generations before us,” said event organizer, Rabbi Shaya Gopin of Chabad of Greater Hartford. “The flames of the menorah shine out into the night, reminding us that even when confronted with much darkness, a tiny light can dispel it all. Another act of goodness and kindness, another act of light, can make all the difference.”

In addition to the carving and lighting of the menorah, Fire on Ice will feature live entertainment by songwriter and entertainer Yoni Z, a New Yorker who has been named Israel’s Kikar HaShabbat‘s “Best New Artist of the Year” and has earned “Music Video of the Year” honors. He has been called “the walking jukebox,” has performed throughout the world, and his YouTube channel has had more than 6.8 million views.

The West Hartford Fire Department will participate in Fire on Ice – launching the “Great Chanukah Gift Drop” as they sprinkle Chanukah gifts and giant chocolate coins from the top of a ladder extended from one of their pieces of apparatus and children of all ages collect the treats that rain down from above.

Starbucks will serve hot drinks, there will be a trackless train, glow-in-the-dark face painting, food for sale, free raffles and prizes, and arts and crafts to entertain people of all ages.

While there is no charge to attend, and no requirement to register, those who do register in advance on the Chabad website will receive a Chanukah kit complete with games, crafts, Chanukah cookies, a Chanukah puzzle, chocolate gelt, and other surprises, while supplies last.

Menorahs and candles will also be distributed those who attend so they can celebrate Chanukah at home.

“This year, the holiday has added significance amid these difficult times,” Chabad said in an announcement of the event. “As the Rebbe – Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory – would often teach, the menorah is a reminder that light can be brought to the darkest of times, and uniquely, at the core of the holiday’s observance is sharing the light with others who may not be experiencing it.

“Throughout the pandemic, Chabad House of Greater Hartford has been on the front lines of providing social, humanitarian and spiritual support to the local community. This celebration and menorah lighting is the latest of many innovative programs geared to uplift people during these unique times.”

Chabad’s outdoor menorah lighting tradition and awareness campaign was launched by Rabbi Schneerson in 1973, and has revitalized widespread and mainstream observance of the Festival of Lights, “returning what some have mistakenly dismissed as a minor holiday to its roots as a public proclamation of the ultimate triumph of freedom over oppression,” Chabad stated.

Chabad will be organizing other giant menorah displays and public menorah lightings throughout the state. Information about events in Connecticut, and elsewhere in the world, can be found online.

More information about Chanukah, and other local events can be found on Chabad of Greater Hartford’s website.

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