Connecticut’s coolest attraction is back for another year this weekend at the Old State House in Hartford.
Operation Fuel, in partnership with local Cheshire business Ice Matters, will hold its second annual Ice House CT event in order to raise awareness and funds for Connecticut families struggling to keep their homes warm during these winter months. Operation Fuel, which has been around since 1977, was started by former Governor Ella Grasso, who noticed that a disparity existed amongst her constituents when it came to heating and fuel cost issues.
“There are about 400,000 Connecticut houses at risk of losing their utilities at any given time,” said Dana Barcellos-Allen, the director of marketing and development for Operation Fuel. “Operation Fuel is the only year-round fuel assistance program that is available for Connecticut residents, and this is something that most of us take for granted.”
Operation Fuel serves all households in Connecticut, and will offer their assistance to anyone needing help applying to energy assistance programs. According to their mission statement, Operation Fuel “ensures equitable access to energy for all by providing year-round energy assistance, promoting energy independence, and advocating for affordable energy.”
Eversource sponsored the first Ice House event last year where ice sculpture artist Bill Covitz, owner of Ice Matters, and his team created a house entirely of ice blocks in order to simulate what it would feel like to live in a house without heat. This year’s event, which begins on Friday, Jan. 24, and runs through Saturday, Jan. 25, is completely free to attend, and will allow visitors to walk through the house, sit on furniture made of ice, and enjoy the rest of the events Operation Fuel has to offer.
“Mother Nature is not always kind to us,” recalled Covitz. “Last year, it was so cold that the governor issued a ban on all outdoor activities because of the wind chill, so the turnout was small, but impactful. This year, we really hope the weather will cooperate and allow the people to come out and support us and Operation Fuel’s cause.”
This year’s Ice House will also include an attached ice garage, as well as a thermal imaging body heat photo booth, for attendees to see their body heat in the frigid conditions.
“We go through a lot of ice,” explained Covitz. “We have about 135 blocks of ice, each weighing about 300 pounds, so that’s about 40,500 pounds of ice in total that we will use to build both the house and garage.”
According to Covitz, his team of eight usually begins the Ice House process a few months before.
“It’s just like brick work, except with ice,” Covitz explained. “We lay it all out and then use water to fill in the gaps so it freezes as one cohesive unit. I started the molds for the chairs a few weeks ago and that will all have to be brought up to Hartford so we can assemble it there.”
Covitz, who is a critically acclaimed ice sculpture artist, is especially proud to be able to lend his talents to a cause in which he believes.
“This job has such a special meaning to so many people,” he said. “I feel … that a lot of people are struggling out there and to be able to do something so visible is really extraordinary.”
Operation Fuel will be collecting donations during the event for families who are struggling to heat their homes, but anyone who cannot make the event this weekend can find other ways to donate on their website: http://www.operationfuel.org/.