This holiday season, Romans will experience the magic of a true Winter Wonderland-themed festival designed to celebrate culture, delight families and unify the community.


The first Winter Wonderland Carnival & Ice Festival will be from Nov. 29 – Dec. 2 at the Forum in downtown Rome. The free, four-day event will celebrate “The Season of Peace” by providing a platform for various social, religious, ethnic and cultural groups to share how they embrace the festive time of year.


A PERC (Peacefully Engaging the Rome Community) event, the Carnival & Ice Festival will run alongside the Forum River Center’s first annual “Forum on Ice” event throughout November and December, which features indoor ice skating.


Mark Van Leuvan, executive director of the carnival, says he was inspired by his past European travels to bring the event to Rome.


“When I was younger, I spent a few Advent seasons backpacking through Central Europe,” says Van Leuven. “I enjoyed their tradition of the Advent Markets, in which the villages would close down late in the afternoon and the citizens open up vendor booths, food booths and regale the town with seasonal entertainment.”


“Regardless of ethnicity or beliefs, everyone is invited to participate,” says Van Leuven. “It’s a great community tradition for neighbors to get to know one another in a completely non-judgemental fashion by celebrating what most hold as a season of peace.”


The Winter Wonderland Carnival will kick off with a live holiday variety show by the PERC Radio Theatre on Thursday, followed by a weekend of festive, cultural events. A market of artistic, educational and culinary vendors will be featured, as well as performances including a Holiday “Gong Show” on Ice, an Ugly Sweater Disco Party, a Night of Carolers, Choirs and Choristers, music from local musicians, art shows, an authentic Kwanzaa dinner and more.


“PERC’s mission is to bring the Rome community together through art and cultural events,” says Jessie Reed, PERC’s Executive Director. “The Winter Wonderland Carnival & Ice festival is an awesome opportunity to share and experience each other’s most sacred traditions. This can only broaden our horizons and promote better understanding among our neighbors.”