Editor’s Note: Last week, we published a Brian Crandall column on the now-defunct Ithaca Slush Festival, a celebration in the 1980s of our miserable winters.

Marissa Richards was one of the many readers to react with fond memories of the event.

The 21st Century Library Campaign – Tompkins County Public Library

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Here’s an email Richards sent to us about it:

The Slush Festival was created by George Preston and friends. George’s sense of humor is legendary and he used it liberally with this festival. The second year of the festival began with George and friends going to the bus station on a Sunday night to meet the NYC bus returning to town. As passengers disembarked from the bus, George “drafted” them to help with the festival. He explained that this was the fifth year of the festival – because he didn’t “want to waste any time”. A few bus passengers did join the festival effort.

A unique promotion to market the festival involved collecting slush from downtown streets and melting it. Then both water and the gravel from the streets was placed into jars and sealed. It was mailed, with a media package, to national news departments and talk shows.

The Johnny Carson show featured a segment. Johnny and Ed opened the box on camera, removed the contents, and read the letter. The letter had instructions about how to reconstitute the slush through freezing the liquid. An additional slush package was reconstituted prior to the show so the slush could examined. A discussion ensued about the slush and how it compared to NYC slush. There were comments about the sanity of Ithacans. One the of the morning shows also carried it but I don’t recall which show it was.

Johnny Carson mentioned the “Ithaca Slush Festival” celebration of our winters — not unlike NPR’s recent segment about the tourism bureau’s joke.

Here is more information about the events: The weather reporting booth was sponsored by Public Access from the cable company. Recorded segments were cablecast on Channel 13 over festival weekend. Of course, festival food included snow cones. Jack Frost made an appearance. Some of the other events included: a sinus complaining booth complete with counseling, a cabin fever relief booth which included making up and telling jokes about winter, a lost mitten department, and a place where kids could make paper snowflakes. Slush was delivered to the Commons, via, wheelbarrows periodically.

One highlight of the Slush Festival was a parade down the middle of the Commons midway through the festival. The festival “King” was George Preston and the “Queen” was Peggy Haines. They were dressed in royal, snow costumes and arrived in a horse-pulled wagon. Drill teams – like the grocery carts filled with frozen food, and a group of local folks with their snow shovels, were part of the parade. Immediately following the parade was the mayor jumping into a tub of slush from a ladder. Silliness of all kinds was emphasized.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.