Ice and spice

Published 8:23 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Off the Water file photo Sculptures will adorn downtown Dowagiac courtesy of sponsors who help underwrite the $10,000 festival including platinum sponsors Lyons Industries, Kemner-Iott Agency/Hastings Mutual Insurance, Swiss Valley Ski Area and The Pokagon Fund. Gold sponsors are Dowagiac Area Federal Credit Union and Dowsett Chiropractic Health Center, with silver sponsor Yazel and Clark Funeral Chapel.

When weather cooperates, the cold truth is crystal-clear works of art take shape thanks to culinary chefs wielding power tools to transform 10 tons of ice blocks into glasslike statuary along downtown sidewalks of the Grand Old City.

Barbecue and a chili crawl bring the spice to Saturday’s event in Dowagiac.

“We are planning to light the sculptures into the night to give a new twist on their presentation,” said Tim Dowsett, co-chairman of the event.

Dowsett said he is pleased to welcome back Andrew Thistlethwaite from Niles.

“He has been an important piece of our festival as he helps organize all of the carvers coming,” said Dowsett, Chamber of Commerce president and co-chair with Patti Badner of Kemner-Iott Agency of Cassopolis. “It’s always exciting to see what he will be dreaming up as he turns the large block of ice into a wonderful sculpture.”

Also new, ACTION will build a food sculpture with canned goods donated in advance of the festival at City Hall.

Chefs begin cutting up at 8 a.m. while shoppers still roam about in pajamas for the Hibernation Sale. Merchants slash winter merchandise to clearance prices.

PJs are appropriate attire with shops open as early as 6:30 a.m.

Competitive carving takes place from 1 to 3:30 p.m. in Beckwith Park with artisans vying for $1,200 in cash prizes offered by the Chamber of Commerce.

Frozen water is just one medium of expression alongside wood and timber carving.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., families can watch a chainsaw salt the street with sawdust while creating a piece that can be taken home from a silent auction.

Fruitbelt Wood Carvers Association will again host an interactive display of work from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside Round Oak Restaurant.

Frame of Mind Art Gallery hosts the children’s author of “Winter’s First Snowflake.”

Frosty the snowman will be at The Gift of Namaste from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be carefully avoiding the bonfire on Commercial Street where the Department of Public Safety toasts s’mores. Frosty prefers to watch children and adults make Mardi Gras masks than risk melting.

At Who Knew? Consignment, children can make paper snowmen, or they can go to The Red Raven and frost cookies with Miss Dowagiac and her court.

Caruso’s Candy Kitchen hosts the Pig’s Dinner ice-cream eating contest at 2 p.m. No hands, ma, just cold noses from rooting face-first through banana split troughs.

The professional chili cook-out is a rabid rivalry between perennial contenders such as 2011 victor Wood Fire Italian Trattoria, five-time winner Beeson Street Bar and Grill, Zeke’s, Wounded Minnow Saloon and Dowagiac Eagles Aerie 2441, which offer tempting taste tests from 1 to 4 p.m. The “crawl” is within an easy, warming-up walking distance of the central business district.

Home chefs dial up the heat with the second annual amateur bracket, offering $85 in cash prices to the top three in noon judging.