At the Maine Governor’s Conference on Tourism, The Nonantum Resort received the 2016 Award for Tourism Leadership & Growth. The Nonantum’s Fire + Ice event, which draws nearly 3,000 visitors to Kennebunkport in mid-December, has helped to expand the second weekend of Christmas Prelude and the economic benefits to the area.
“The Nonantum models the way for tourism business collaborations that strengthen destinations,” said Carolann Ouellette, Director of the Maine Office of Tourism. “The resort’s holiday event, Fire & Ice, in coordination with Kennebunkport’s popular Christmas Prelude, added a new dimension to the existing event and has been instrumental in increasing shoulder-season visitation in a region that has traditionally been a summer vacation destination.”
Fire + Ice, now in its sixth year, is a two-night sold out event featuring blazing bonfires on the resort’s back lawn, ice bars and sculptures, dancing to the Tony Boffa band, signature holiday cocktails, and comfort foods provided by area restaurant partners.
“Imagine an event so popular that hundreds of people come from across the country to attend, planning their vacation around it,” said Laura Dolce, Director of the Kennebunks Chamber of Commerce. “Imagine an event so magical that despite thousands of people in attendance, despite often uncooperative weather, people are already looking forward to attending next year.”
The benefits of Fire + Ice extend beyond The Nonantum’s doors. Area inns are now selling out on both weekends of Prelude, and some even report the second weekend surpassing the first. Area restaurants, shops and galleries are seeing far more foot traffic from holiday shoppers and diners.
“Because of Fire & Ice and The Nonantum Resort’s support, the Kennebunkport Business Association has been able to grow Christmas Prelude into a full 12-day celebration – helping local hotels, restaurants and shops extend their season,” said Ashley Padget, KBA President and General Manager of Alisson’s Restaurant.
A significant portion of the proceeds go to support local non-profits, with The Education Foundation of the Kennebunks & Arundel and Make-A-Wish Maine each receiving a $5,000 donation last year. The non-profit beneficiaries send volunteers to help staff the event, and have a little fun! In 2015, the resort also created a Fire + Ice VIP Pre-Night, an upscale evening with limited seating to support the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center.
Fire + Ice is The Nonantum’s “last hurrah” for the season and stocks the resort’s coffers with additional funds for winter projects and renovations.
“Were it not for Christmas Prelude and Fire + Ice bringing an influx of business during the first two weeks of December, we would likely close after Columbus Day like a lot of our fellow Maine waterfront resorts do,” said General Manager, Tina Hewett-Gordon. Instead, The Nonantum and other area businesses keep their staff on for longer into the season, benefiting employees and the local economy.
“This event occurs at a critical time of year when businesses such as ours are in need of an infusion of customers to help prepare us for the leaner winter months when there are fewer visitors,” said Fred Forsley, Owner of Shipyard Brewing Company and Federal Jack’s Restaurant.
Fire + Ice also helps to increase Kennebunkport and Maine’s visibility as a top tourism destination through The Nonantum’s marketing efforts via social media, online promotions, email blasts, advertising and media coverage in local newspapers, TV and radio stations.
The Nonantum team’s involvement in the industry extends beyond the local community to include regional and statewide tourism initiatives. Tina Hewett-Gordon heads up the Christmas Prelude tree selection and decoration committee, which spent a full day stringing up 28,000 lights and Maine lobster buoys on the 38-foot tree in Dock Square! And she was there to help flip the switch during the tree lighting celebration attended by a crowd of over 5,000. Hewett-Gordon is also Chair of the Maine Restaurant Association.
Innkeeper Jean Ginn Marvin is Chair of Maine Innkeepers Association, and past President of New England Inns and Resorts Association (NEIRA). Ginn Marvin is also Chair Elect of The Maine Community College System Board of Trustees and has been working to get the hospitality industry and the Community College system to work together to insure Maine’s hospitality workers are the best trained in the country.
Director of Marketing Nicki Bean is very involved in regional destination marketing efforts. She serves on the Board of the Kennebunk-Kennebunkport-Arundel Chamber of Commerce and as co-chair of the Destination Marketing committee. Bean also serves on the Board of the Maine Beaches Association, one of the regional partners of the Maine Office of Tourism, dedicated to supporting visitation to the southern Maine coast.
The Governor’s Conference on Tourism Awards recognize individuals, businesses and organizations that have distinguished themselves as models for the industry and contributing to the overall growth of tourism in Maine.
Guests interested in attending Fire + Ice 2016 may book an Overnight Package including two tickets to the event, set for Dec. 9 & 10th. (Adults only, 21+). Individual tickets will go on sale in August. The event sells out in advance. Stay updated by signing up for our e-newsletter and following us on Facebook! www.fireandicekport.com