- - Thursday, February 16, 2017

It bills itself as the state’s snowiest town, but officials in the Western Maryland town of Oakland have postponed the annual Winter Fest — because of unusually springlike weather.

Blame it on global warming, bad timing or bad luck, but temperatures are expected to reach the mid-50s this weekend in Oakland, a small mountain town in Garrett County that averages more than 100 inches of snow per year, delaying the festival, the major winter tourist draw for the town, by at least a week.

Bill Sandusky, a professional ice carver who was set to perform demonstrations on Saturday, said festival organizers could face the same predicament next week if weather conditions do not change.

“We’re always at the weather’s mercy, so you never know,” he said. “We’ve had some really good luck in past weekends.”

Michelle Ross of the Greater Oakland Business Association said it is only the second time that higher-than-normal temperatures have interfered with the event’s scheduling in its nine-year history.

The festival has always been slotted for the Presidents Day weekend in February, she said. But in 2015 the event was moved to December and ultimately canceled because “it was a sunny 75 degrees out.”

She said she expects the event to draw its typical crowd of 2,000 people — roughly the size of the town’s population — who come to enjoy ice sculptures and ice bowling, along with food and crafts from nearly 20 local vendors.

Mr. Sandusky has attended the festival every year and spends hours carving sculptures at his Erie Ice Works studio in Erie, Pennsylvania, for the occasion. Festival sponsors purchase his sculptures, which take up to two hours to carve, he said, depending on the design’s intricacy.

This year his pre-carved creations will have to spend an extra week in one of the studio’s 22-by-10-foot freezers before being transported from Erie to Oakland.

Depending on the climate, sculptures out on display can start to melt within an hour, said the 53-year-old Pennsylvania native.

But, he added, most sponsors and visitors are understanding when it comes to the vagaries of the weather, especially in a year when the mid-Atlantic has barely received any snow to date.

“You might get some customers who get a little disgruntled with it because of the weather, but there’s really nothing on our part we can do about that,” he said. “The best thing to do is keep the sun off it. The sun will hurt it more than the actual temperature.”

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