Maksim Bouchard, the son and assistant of ice carver Jesse Bouchard of Raymond, works Thursday afternoon on an ice bar for Delvino's Grill & Pasta House in Belfast. The bar is part of the Belfast Ice Festival, taking place this Saturday throughout downtown Belfast. Credit: Abigail Curtis / BDN

BELFAST, Maine — After nearly 12 months in which most in-person festivals were canceled, this coming weekend offers winter-weary Mainers an opportunity to get out and enjoy themselves.

The Belfast Ice Festival will offer ice carving demonstrations, ice sculptures, two ice bars outside Main Street eateries and more on Saturday.

The event came together fairly quickly, Zach Schmesser, director of Our Town Belfast said, and began as a collaboration between local restaurateurs Ryan Otis of Rollie’s Bar & Grill and Tina DelSanto of Delvino’s Grill & Pasta House.

“I think we put together something we feel we can do safely,” Schmesser said. “There’s something for everyone, really, just to get people out of the house and go downtown. It’s a little nerve-wracking — we’re very cognizant that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. We’re trying to do everything very carefully.”

Schmesser hopes the ice festival will mark the beginning of a safe return to a busier event schedule.

“People have been extremely patient,” he said. “They’ll need to recognize that things will not be done exactly the same way they’ve been done in the past. We’ll start to see some things come back, slowly.”

He said it’s possible that the ice festival will become an annual mid-winter event. Interest has been robust, he said. People are interested in watching the ice carving demonstrations which will take place in various downtown locations from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. They can also check out the ice sculptures located throughout downtown and at the Dairy Queen on Belmont Avenue, and enjoy a frosty — or warming — beverage at the Rollie’s and Delvino’s ice bars.

“It’s just kind of taken off, I think because there’s not a whole lot of other things going on, and people are looking for things to do,” he said. “Even if there was no pandemic, this time of year can be hard for folks. This can be a way to break cabin fever. If we can figure out ways to engage people with winter in a positive way, why not?”

In Skowhegan, the Somerset SnowFest will end its weeklong celebration of all things winter with a kite-flying derby, a downhill kayak race and the Northeast’s only equestrian skijoring competition.

In order to abide by COVID-19 safety protocols, organizers are requiring pre-registration for activities.

Skijor Skowhegan is a fast-paced time-trial race in which a horse and rider pull a snowboarder or alpine skier down a 1,000-foot track of gates and jumps, and is not open to the public. Instead, fans are invited to watch the live stream of the event on Main Street Skowhegan’s Facebook page.