Business

The Lawn on D says hello to winter

Edgy new park in South Boston puts emphasis on fun with maze built of ice, LED lights

Matt O’Brien of Salem unloads huge blocks of ice that will be used to create a winter display on the Lawn on D called “Fire & Ice” in South Boston, taking place this weekend.

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Matt O’Brien of Salem unloaded huge blocks of ice that will be used to create a winter display on the Lawn on D called “Fire & Ice” in South Boston, taking place this weekend.

Playing with fire is rarely this entertaining in Boston’s Innovation District, where entrepreneurs know a thing or two about taking big business risks.

Live performers juggling, twirling, and breathing actual flames will be in the neighborhood this weekend for the first Fire & Ice Festival at the Lawn on D, the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center’s park and outdoor bar that opened in August and has quickly became a popular gathering place.

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The tented bar that served patrons in summer and fall is gone, but a new bar carved from ice will take its place during festivities from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Revelers can test their sobriety by attempting to navigate an illuminated ice maze built of 300 ice blocks, each weighing 300 pounds, with LED lights frozen inside. The ice maze will also serve as a dramatic backdrop for artists from the Boston Circus Guild, who make performance art with live fire.

Performers from ART Oberon in Cambridge will twirl, juggle, and breathe fire during the "Fire & Ice" festival at the Lawn on D.

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Performers from ART Oberon in Cambridge will twirl, juggle, and breathe fire during the "Fire & Ice" festival at the Lawn on D.

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Stoked Pizza, the Taco Truck, and other vendors will feed the masses, and additional entertainment will include dance music for kids and skits performed by the American Repertory Theater.

Admission is free, as are samples of Legal Sea Foods’ clam chowder, but other food and beverages will be available for purchase.

The Fire & Ice Festival is the first in what convention center officials hope to make a series of winter events at the Lawn on D this season.

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“Our broad mission is to connect with the local community and not be perceived as being only for business,” said James Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.

The Lawn on D is a 2.7-acre public space next to the convention center on D Street that was conceived as a pilot project. The convention center authority spent $1.1 million to create a temporary park on land it will eventually use to expand the hall, envisioning an 18-month trial to determine if the area would benefit from a permanent outdoor meeting space.

Each of the 300 or so blocks of ice weighs about 300 pounds.

The Boston Globe

Each of the 300 or so blocks of ice weighs about 300 pounds.

It didn’t take that long to find out. With visitors routinely stopping by to play corn hole in the afternoon or grabbing beers to cap the evening, Rooney declared in October the Lawn on D experiment a success and said the authority would replace it with a permanent space as part of the expansion of the convention center.

In all seasons, the goal is to offer an outdoor venue that can be booked for functions on select occasions but more often be open for informal socializing.

One idea is to simulate — and update — a familiar childhood scene for professionals who remember winters gone by when they used to answer a knock on the door to find a neighborhood friend asking for help building a snowman.

As adults this winter, they can expect to get the same invitation via Twitter from their friends at the convention center. On days when a blizzard blankets the city, the @lawnond Twitter account will beckon its roughly 2,000 followers to frolic in the snow.

There will be snowball fights, cocoa, and probably a food truck or two. The kid next door never brought a restaurant on wheels, now, did he?

“We want to have little pop-ups when there’s lots of snow,” Rooney said. “It’s sort of re-creating those days when you were a kid going out to play in the snow.”

Walking the frozen labyrinth

• The Lawn on D’s ice labyrinth will be one of the largest ever in North America

• It will measure some 52 by 45 feet, with more than 300 feet of ice walls

• Each of the 300 or so blocks of ice weighs about 300 pounds

• The blocks will contain about 7,500 LED lights to illuminate the walk-through maze

• Construction on the labyrinth and ice bar will take about 300 hours

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.
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