DURHAM – “Only in Durham,” once a phrase that some people once used to deride the Bull City, took on a far different meaning Saturday at the Holiday Fun Fest in Durham Central Park. Only in Durham can visitors sled and play in artificial snow, then walk a few steps and watch hot bronze being poured to make works of art.
“We’re pouring hot bronze next to ice,” said Renee Leverty, an artist with Liberty Arts who was participating in a pour at the George Watts Hill Pavilion. The Liberty Arts pour was not officially part of the Fun Fest, which Durham Parks and Recreation presents, but it happened the same day, a serendipitous coincidence for the metal artists. “Because we’re here at the same time as this event, we’re meeting people who didn’t know about Liberty Arts,” Leverty said.
A crowd watched as artist Jackie MacLeod, dressed in protective gear, cleaned sludge from a pot of bronze. An assistant then poured the bronze into molds. When it cooled, visitors were able to see the results of the pour.
For children, however, the main attraction at the Holiday Fun Fest was the snow. A refrigeration truck pumped a mound of snow next to Liberty Warehouse, and children throughout the afternoon played in the snow and made snowballs. Another mound of snow near the skateboard park was shaped into a downhill sledding course, and it was in constant use.
Kevin Howson and his 2-year-old son Miles went down the slide together. “This is his first time sledding,” Howson said of Miles. “He’s very excited.” Pam Gray and her 4-year-old daughter Lucy also went down the course together. The ride was one of Lucy’s first times sledding, Gray said. A group of Parks and Recreation volunteers were at the bottom of the slide to ensure everyone had a smooth landing, and a smooth stop.
Across Foster Street, there was a steady line for train rides, and for s’mores, which were free as long as they lasted. Annette Smith of Parks and Recreation was putting chocolate pieces on graham crackers. A co-worker said about 2,000 s’mores had been made and eaten, and Smith expected to run out before the end of the festivities. “How can you turn down sugar and chocolate and a graham cracker?” Smith said.
Martricia Degree didn’t, and she was meticulously roasting a marshmallow over a fire, making sure it did not flame up. Saturday was her first time roasting a marshmallow, which had a perfect brown glaze on it. Asked if she was addicted to s’mores, she replied, “after this one, I may be. I may do it again.”
Gillian Parke was at the festival with her daughter Iris and son Trevor. Her children’s favorite attraction was the sledding, Parke said. “We came last year, and they couldn’t wait to come back,” she said. Her friend Kerrie Powell was at the festival with her daughters Sophie and Ella. Powell said her children also enjoyed the sledding, as well as the pony rides.
Felicia Mullen’s daughter Summer said throwing snowballs was her favorite activity of the day. Saturday’s temperature was very mild for December, and Mullen said the weather was “perfect for a wonderful Durham tradition.”