Cool for a cause

By Sara Pokorny, Weekender Staff Writer

January 16, 2013

There are frosted mugs, and then there are frosted bars.

Well, not many, to be exact, as the number of ice bars in the country can be counted on a single hand, but we‚??re fortunate enough to have one such creation right in our backyard.

Damenti‚??s Restaurant (870 N. Hunter Highway, Mountain Top) has officially opened its cool hot spot for the season and will be in operation through March 17.

What began as an ice palace for owner Kevin McDonald‚??s daughter in 1986 has now blossomed into a full-blown frozen bar with spectacular sculptures and many talented ice carvers from around the nation to go with them.

‚??It was a present for my daughter, but then people in the restaurant would look at it and say, ‚??That‚??s pretty neat,‚??‚?Ě McDonald, owner of Damenti‚??s in Butler Township, said of the first ice castle he built his little girl. ‚??So then we started building ice palaces, and then we started having competitions, and now, for the past couple years, we‚??ve had the bar.‚?Ě

This year‚??s theme is of the Roman persuasion, one that professional carver and friend of McDonald, Jeff Kaiser, was more than prepared for.

‚??I‚??m thinking of putting this here, as the base of the column,‚?Ě he said as he showed McDonald a picture of two Romanesque faces with very detailed hair that he planned to carve into one of three bars as construction began last week.

Just how much time does something like that take? Not long for a master carver.

‚??About an hour and a half,‚?Ě Kaiser said with a smile.

Three-dimensional figures will pop from the windows as well as sit on the bars ‚?? warriors and their accoutrements, Medusa heads, and even a throne in one corner where patrons can have a seat and get a picture taken.

This year, 100 blocks of ice have been brought in, weighing a total of about 30,000 pounds. There will be three bars: a small one that comes in at 1,500 pounds, a medium-sized one that weighs 2,500, and the main bar that tops out at 4,800.

While the ice bar is visually astounding, McDonald is making sure its use is also practical, a benefit to some local organizations.

‚??We‚??ve teamed up with the Palermo Heart to Heart Foundation, sole sponsors of the Beads of Courage program at Janet Weis Children‚??s Hospital. Half of the money made at the bar every night will go to them.‚?Ě

The giving doesn‚??t end there.

‚??The other half of the money made will go to a different charity,‚?Ě McDonald added. ‚??It‚??s pretty much that the charity gets paid to come up here and have a party. They provide the bartender, we provide the beer and wine, and the organization gets half of whatever is sold that night, then the other half goes to Heart to Heart.‚?Ě

Damenti‚??s Restaurant (870 N. Hunter Highway, Mountain Top): open 5-10 p.m. Tues. through Sat., 4-9 p.m. Sun.