Five-year-old Rachel Mintz, of Indianapolis, points at one of the ice sculptures that remained on Main Street Monday in Niles after the city's annual Hunter Ice Festival. Her sister, Maxine, 3, and cousin, Bari Lutz, 10, of Granger, also take an interest in the sculpture.

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Ice festival attracts 10,000 plus

Published 4:21pm Monday, January 16, 2012

The Hauch family, of Niles, bought some Hunter Ice Cream Monday served from a table made of ice near Main Street.

“The weather is just perfect, and the ice cream is great,” said Jacki Hauch.

This is the first year Hunter Ice Cream was sold on the Monday after Hunter Ice Festival.

Daily Star photo/AARON MUELLER The interactive ice park was one of the more popular attractions at last weekend’s Hunter Ice Festival. People could play ice ping pong, air hockey or bowling.

Lucy McCauslin, a member of the Main Street promotions committee, said about 100 gallons of the ice cream were sold during the festival.

McCauslin said Penn State University scientists created the ice cream recipe special for Niles Main Street. The recipe is modeled off one used by the Hunter family circa 1900. It is only sold during the festival.

Nearly a foot of snow didn’t stop thousands of people from coming to downtown Niles for the annual festival.

Lisa Croteau, Niles DDA Main Street program manager, estimates between 10,000 and 12,000 people came to the event held over the weekend.

“It seemed to be a success from everything I’ve seen and heard,” Croteau said.

Attendance was down from the 15,000 to 17,000 people who came a year ago. Croteau attributes the drop in attendance to the snowfall Thursday and Friday and the absence of the Food Network at the event.

“People were very curious about the Food Network last year, so, without that hook, a 10 percent drop isn’t too bad,” Croteau said.

Friday saw the biggest hit in attendance, while on Saturday people were slow to make it to the festival. Niles received about 10 inches of snow Thursday and Friday.

Sunday attendance was up around 25 percent, thanks in part to the festival’s new chili crawl.

“We did a real good job on the chili,” Croteau said. “It seemed to be a good fit for the festival. We’ll definitely be bringing it back.”

Warm weather and sunlight were causing Main Street ice sculptures to crack and melt on Monday. With rain in the forecast, Croteau doesn’t expect the sculptures to last much longer.

“We might cover some of them tonight (Monday), but we have to go out and assess,” she said. “It is one of those years where you get to see how temporary the art is.”

Many people were in downtown Niles Monday to see the sculptures and take advantage of the mild weather.

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