The City of Plymouth hosted the 26th annual Plymouth International Ice Sculpture Festival last weekend, drawing thousands to the downtown’s Kellogg Park to see ice transformed into art.
Every year, sculptors from all over the world descend upon Plymouth the weekend after Detroit’s International Auto Show to showcase their talents. Local high school and college students compete in various contests throughout the weekend, as well.
The 26th festival featured new activities for the public, including free demos of snow shoes, wood-carving competitions and a visit from a reindeer on Sunday. The sidewalks of the downtown area were crowded with tourists and residents alike viewing the ice creations and the new events.
“I’m just amazed at the talent. It’s just mind-boggling the ideas they come up with,” said Plymouth resident Mark Cappe. “Folks who have liquids inside it, pennies inside it – it’s not just sculpture anymore. They’re actually coming up with really clever ideas for art. I really like it.”
Items within sculptures was a consistent theme with this year’s festival. Many sculptors used paint to enhance their creations; one sculpture even had a rose and a marriage proposal of “Cat, I love you, marry me?” inside it. Coca-cola could be seen inside an ice bottle, and someone put real pennies inside their frozen piggy bank. Other crowd favorites included near life-size Scooby Doo and friends, giant dinosaurs, a Starbucks symbol (located right outside the doors of one), Super Mario and Donkey Kong and a Budweiser dispenser with real bottles at the bottom.
“I thought the dinosaurs were really impressive,” Cappe said. “Just based on size, the balance, how they put heavier items on top and how they hold the weight up, it’s interesting.”
For a town built around the faltering automotive industry, it was good to see the city continue its traditions. The large crowds in the downtown area show that Plymouth is still alive and well.
“The Ice Fest has seemed to be smaller in scope the last few years, but overall I think the economic impact is a plus for all of our downtown business folks,” Mayor Phil Pursell said. “I think that the events have been a great benefit to the city over the last few years. We have become more of an entertainment venue and many restaurants and businesses have capitalized on it economically and culturally.”
Kellogg Park was consistently busy throughout the weekend. Friday featured the official opening celebration, along with the high school individual competition, where students were given 1 block of ice with 4 hours to carve. Radio Disney was on hand Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., hosting trivia contests and games. Main Street Bank also hosted a Cash Cube, giving away a family four-pack of “Hannah Montana the 3D Movie” tickets. Master wood carver Dale Hatfield put on live carving exhibits throughout Saturday as well, selling his artwork and auctioning off his largest creation for charity.
Sunday was the day for competitive carving, with both the high school and college team competitions starting at 10:30 a.m. Teams were given 3 blocks of ice and 4 hours to create whatever they could. From noon until 4 p.m. REI held a snowshoe demonstration, allowing the public to take a stroll around the park in snowshoes.
Kelly Collins, a 19-year-old Plymouth resident, said that even with sculptures and the new events this year, the festival should feature more events to target a younger audience. Even though the festival had a few demonstrations from professional carvers, Collins suggested more demonstrations for beginners to really teach them how create their own ice sculptures.
Collins was also quick to point out that success of the festival depends on the weather conditions, saying she probably would not have been there if it were any colder. The city was fortunate enough to have bearable weather over the festival weekend, Friday saw a high of 20 degrees, and a low of 2 degrees, high of 25 and low of 16 degrees on Saturday, and a high of 31 and a low of 17 degrees on Sunday.
Some visitors at the festival were disappointed by the reindeer visit. There was only one, it was only there for a few hours and people had to view it from afar. In the festival guide’s schedule of events, it said: “Come and see some of Santa’s friends. Pet them, get your pictures taken, and touch the antlers that they shed every year.”
“The ice festival is always cool, but it would have been so much better if they would let us pet the reindeer,” said 17-year-old Samantha Weidendorf. “I love the reindeer, I want to pet the reindeer.”
Even with the blunders around the reindeer, the festival appeared to be a success. Plymouth residents continue to take pride in their city’s famous events.
“Well Plymouth already has a nice reputation for all the festivals and items they have for all kinds of folks,” Cappe said. “Anything that brings folks into Plymouth is great for the town.”