MOUNT VERNON — With a 40 to 70 percent chance of precipitation on Saturday, there is the possibility that the sixth annual Fire and Ice event at Honey Run Waterfall park, showcasing its 600 luminaries, may not happen, Knox County Park District Director Lori Totman said Wednesday.
“Paper bags filled with sand and holding lit candles don’t do well in the rain,” she said.
Totman said she and eight other members of the Fire and Ice Committee will be on high alert all day Friday as to incoming weather, and will let interested stakeholders know by 9 p.m. if the event will happen. She has checked three different weather websites to determine the possibility of rain.
Should the event at Honey Run Waterfall not happen, the church parking lot where all event visitors are to park and take KAT shuttles to the event site — the new Millwood Church of Christ parking lot at 10900 US 62 — will still be a collection point for canned and boxed food and monetary donations, she said. It is part of Saturday’s large-scale Food For the Hungry annual collection effort.
Totman, started Fire and Ice in December 2014, the year after she became park director. New to her job, she had been tasked with the creation of programming called “The Nature of Knox,” an educational effort involving numerous entities and coordinated by the Owl Creek Conservancy. She wanted to show visitors what different park ecosystems look like, such as the waterfall.
The first year it was held, Fire and Ice featured 280 luminaries placed along the Honey Run Waterfall walking path areas, with about 175 people on hand. It steadily grew in size, with 420 luminaries and 350 attending in 2015. In 2016, it featured 600 luminaries, the number it still has today.
In 2017, there were only about 250 people who attended due to inclement weather. But last year — thanks to social media messages disseminated on Facebook by park district administrative assistant Katie Hux — about 2,000 people attended, Totman said.
That number was an overwhelmingly positive success, but it did create some traffic issues that had to be dealt with this year. One issue was that people were parking on both sides of Hazel Dell Road, as well as walking in the middle of the road toward the waterfall. This time around, more than 20,000 people have viewed social media messages from the park district, with about 1,500 Fire and Ice enthusiasts offering that they will be on hand Saturday. If weather cooperates, the event will once again also feature a bonfire in the Honey Run Waterfall parking area, where the only vehicle allowed in to Hazel Dell Road will be one park district truck.
The Fire and Ice Committee has been working since February on a solution, and came up with a plan — Knox Area Transit (KAT) shuttles will transport participants from the new Millwood Church of Christ to Honey Run Waterfall. The shuttles will start at 2 p.m. for volunteers to prepare the event, Totman said, and will run every 2 to 10 minutes for the event, which is scheduled to happen from 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Several organizations have come aboard this year to donate resources to continue to make Fire and Ice a free family event.
Totman said four members of the park district operations team will be on hand to coordinate Fire and Ice, and she will be there as well. Volunteers handle the luminaries, which are white paper bags that contain sand, with the candles placed into the sand to remain stationary. The bags have a “snowflake pattern” that makes for a beautiful display.
Four Knox County Sheriff’s officers will be on hand to divert event traffic away from Hazel Dell Road, Austin Road and Kirk Road and send them to the church parking lot. There will also be a sheriff’s officer in the church parking lot entrance area. The Fire and Ice Committee will use cones, extendable barriers and numerous volunteers to make sure traffic in and out of the parking lot proceeds with a steady flow, Totman said.
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