Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

A participant in last year's ice carving competition at Ice Fest blowtorches his sculpture.

November 27, 2018

Ice Fest to Cool Down Ithaca Commons, Showcase Ice Carving

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Downtown Ithaca will host its 12th Annual Ice Fest to celebrate the cold weather from Dec. 6 to 8. The three-day festival will feature an ice carving competition along with other activities such as a silent disco, fire dancing demonstrations, an Ice Bar and a Chowder Cook-off.

“The idea for Ice Fest began when we were searching for a festival that would be enjoyable in cold weather,”  said Summer Keown, special events director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.

“The ice carvers thrive in the winter — the colder the better.”

This year, the ice carving competition will again be a part of Ice Fest. There will be a speed carving single-elimination competition on Friday evening and a two-block showpiece challenge, which includes three rounds of competition, on Saturday.

“The sculptors who participate are incredibly talented, and they compete all over,” Keown said. “As this is my first year serving as the event director, I am most interested in seeing the ice carvers creating their unique artworks.”

Aaron Costic was the winner of the last ice carving competition, which was judged by members of the National Ice Carving Association. Costic also previously won the Ice Carving World Championships in Alaska, and his 2017 Ice Fest first-prize sculpture “Wind” was of an angel’s torso.

In addition to the ice carving competition, the Ice Fest will host the Chowder Cook-Off, which will feature over 20 restaurants from the Commons and from nearby blocks. Several restaurants will be participating in the Cook-Off for the first time this year, including Thai Basil and Sushi Osaka, according to Keown.

Last year, Keown said, Cornell Catering came in third place for “Best Seafood Chowder” behind Simeon’s American Bistro and Luna Inspired Street Food.

Apart from these main events, there will also be two new performances this year: holiday carols from the Flight Performing Arts and a holiday play featuring masked characters from the Civic Ensemble.

“The civic ensemble holiday show utilizes the art form of [Commedia] Del’Arte; it lends itself to street theater, so this year we reached out to the Downtown Ithaca Alliance about doing a short presentation and here we are,” said Gabriella Carr, the artistic line producer for Civic Ensemble and co-director of the Ice Fest performance.

The play will feature members of the Civic Ensemble as well as students from Ithaca College.

Performances and competitions aside, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance has brought back community favorites. Throughout the weekend, Keown said, attendees can grab drinks from the Ice Bar, which is fully made from ice, meet a team of sled dogs, participate in the Silent Disco with DJ ha-MEEN and watch fire demonstrations from Nate the Great.

“[The Ice Fest] is a great way to draw interest downtown and bring people downtown to participate in the ongoing development of the Ithaca Commons,” Carr said.