While the Chautauqua Lake area is often thought of as a summertime destination -- thanks to a reputation for fishing, boating and camping among other warm-weather activities -- it's actually a great place to visit year-round.
The annual Mayville I.C.E. & Cool Jazz Festival is one of the reasons to visit this time of year. Taking place in the picturesque village of Mayville, incorporated in 1830 on the western shores of Chautauqua Lake, the festival is held President's Day Weekend, this year beginning Friday through next Sunday in Lakeside Park.
I.C.E. stands for Ice Castle Extravaganza, refering to the event centerpiece: an ice castle built by volunteers from more than 1,700 blocks of ice cut from Chautauqua Lake -- weather permitting. And even though a mild winter like our current one means there's no ice on the lake to build that castle, the show still always goes on.
The Cool Jazz part of the festival's name refers to the jazz concerts and other events taking place in Mayville.
The extravaganza, which has evolved into a three-day event, started out as a daylong happening in 1987, part of the Chautauqua-Allegany I Love NY Winter Festival. The castle was the dream of the late Donald Hogan, who had directed the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau for 17 years and believed the Chautauqua region should offer visitors activities year-round.
Get into the festival mood with a concert by international folk-blues singer and guitarist Eric Bibb, who will be performing in the Watermark Restaurant at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets are $15 through Mayville Events. Jazz fans can also enjoy a Jazz Vespers Service at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Hurlbut Church, on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution.
On Saturday, the festival kicks into high gear with all sorts of events. This year marks the inaugural I.C.E. Cross Country Ski Tour, which will start at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and travel along the scenic Portage Trail. Participants will be raising funds for the Chautauqua Rails-to-Trails. The Portage Trail was originally the route the Native Americans took when they portaged their canoes from Lake Erie to Lake Chautauqua.
Other events scheduled at Lakeside Park include a snowball distance throwing contest, igloo construction demonstrations, a giant kids snow slide, ice skating, snow sculpting, an ice chipping contest, snowshoe demonstrations and snowmobile rides.
As night falls on Saturday, bundle up and get ready to enjoy a bonfire, beginning at 5:30 p.m., followed by a fireworks display at 7 p.m. End the evening with jazz by Chicago blues master Corky Siegel in the Chautauqua Lake School Auditorium. Tickets are $10 through Mayville Events.
Jazz in the Streets begins at 10 p.m. Saturday with jazz music performed at several Mayville restaurants including Olive's, the Watermark, Piper's Alley, Webb's, Giambrone's and Lakeview Hotel. Artists scheduled to perform include Razz and Friends, Steve Davis, Brad Jones and Friends, Carl Hultman Group, and James Madden Trio.
Other events taking place in the Mayville area this weekend include an icewine tasting at the Portage Hill Gallery, 6439 S. Portage Road, Westfield. Enjoy a free taste of locally produced icewine while perusing an art collection from more than 200 regional and national artists. There will also be an ice sculpture display, weather permitting, as well as Swarovski Crystal jewelry and glazed pottery inside the gallery. Jazz music will also be played at the House on the Hill Gallery, 186 S. Erie St., Mayville (753-7800).
Besides the festival events, there are a variety of other activities in the area to enjoy. If you are into snowmobiling, Chautauqua County has more than 400 miles of snowmobile trails, making snowmobiling one of the most popular winter pastimes in the county. Keep in mind that you must be registered to operate a snowmobile on public trails in New York State; contact the Mayville Department of Motor Vehicles (753-4229).
If you're looking for a sweet treat, check out Webb's Candies, 115 West Lake Road (NY394), Mayville. Webb's, in business since 1942, is famous for chocolates, including its trademark goat-milk fudge. Their confections are made by hand, using old-fashioned methods. Along with candies, a gift shop has many lovely items for sale, including Chautauqua-area souvenirs.
Webb's also offers fine accommodations that include 52 modern, large hotel rooms, some with Jacuzzi tubs and balconies. The three-star Captains Table restaurant overlooks Chautauqua Lake and features specialties including prime rib and fresh seafood.
There are also numerous B&B inns in the area that are open year-round, along with area restaurants offering casual, as well as fine dining. The Chautauqua Institution is located just a few miles down the road from Mayville. Since it's the off-season, there is no gate fee to enter the grounds. The Chautauqua Bookstore is a great place to spend a winter afternoon (357-2151, open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily year-round). Enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh rides at the Institution from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday during February. Tickets are $2 for adults, $1 child and can be purchased at the Chautauqua Bookstore.
The Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, 357-4569, www.tourchautauqua.com or visit them at the main gate of the Chautauqua Institution, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, year-round.
The Chautauqua Institution, 357-6200; www.ciweb.org.
Mayville Chamber of Commerce, 753-3113; www.mayville-chautauquachamber.org.
Mayville Events, 753-2800; www.mayvilleevents.com.
Portage Hill Gallery, 326-4478, www.portagehillgallery.com.
Webb's Candies, 753-2161; www.webbscandies.com or www.webbsworld.com.
For information on trails and trail conditions in the Mayville area, contact the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobiling Club at 753-2924; www.chautauquasnow.com.
(from downtown Buffalo)
* Take the New York State Thruway south to exit 60, Westfield;
* Follow Route 394 east to Mayville.