Ice Time Festival to heat up weekend

Published 3:02 pm Thursday, January 30, 2014

Carvers from all over the United States will visit Dowagiac Saturday for the 18th annual Ice Time Festival. (Leader file photo)

Carvers from all over the United States will visit Dowagiac Saturday for the 18th annual Ice Time Festival. (Leader file photo)

DOWAGIAC — Back in August, while the rest of southwest Michigan enjoying the last warm days of summer, members of the Dowagiac Ice Time Festival committee were thinking far ahead to when the snow would be flying.

They were busy planning activities that both children and adults could enjoy during the “Grand Old City’s” annual ice festival. Now, the time has come for all of those ideas to become a reality.

Feb. 1 will mark the 18th time that Dowagiac has hosted the Ice Time Festival, making it one of the oldest ice carving festivals in southwest Michigan. As in past years, the central focus of the festival will be the art of sculpting frozen blocks of water.

“Of course, there will be ice sculptures on the streets throughout downtown,” said Kris Lamphere, chair of the Ice Time committee. “The carving starts at 8 a.m., and carvers will be carving blocks of ice on the streets throughout the morning.”

Then, the ice carve-off competition at Beckwith Park Gazebo will begin at 1 p.m. and continue until 2:30 p.m., with the judging of the sculptures scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

“We have nine carvers in the competition. It is a timed, 1 ½ hour competition, and it will be judged on the final pieces,” Lamphere explained. “Many of them are chefs, and this is their specialty.”

The majority of the carvers are members of the Michiana Ice Carvers Association, hailing from South Bend, New Carlisle, Buchanan, Manistee and other nearby locals.

Along with the activities that have traditionally been offered, the organizers have added a number of fun new activities to the day’s schedule.

“We’ve added a bunch of outside activities to get the kids out, moving, and enjoying the season,” said Lamphere, who also owns WHO kNEW Consignment, one of the sponsors of this year’s festival.

Other sponsors for the event include The Pokagon Fund, Lyons Industries, the Dowagiac Area Federal Credit Union, Dowsett Chiropractic Health Center and Clark Chapel.

“There will be our Lil’ Chippers area with lots of fun games like broom hockey, the walrus wiggle, and a bunch of other things for kids to participate in,” Lamphere said.

Kids—and adults—will also have the rare opportunity to meet Mary Vowell, a musher from Kalamazoo, Mich., and her team of sled dogs.

“There will be a mushing team on site,” Lamphere said. “The kids will be able to talk to her, and pet the dogs, and learn more about this sport that has such a long history in this state.”

Indoor activities for kids have also been planned, including crafts, story-time activities and an ice cream eating contest.

“At WHO kNEW, we always host a craft activity where the kids can come in and get warm and do a craft. It’s not scheduled. It goes on all day long,” Lamphere said.

Kids can also make Valentine’s Day cards at the Mane Attraction and frost cookies with Miss Dowagiac and her court at the Dowagiac History Museum.

“There is also an exhibit on the history of the Miss Dowagiac pageant at the museum since this is the 75th year of the Miss Dowagiac pageant,” Lamphere said.

There will also be many other types of artists demonstrating their techniques on the streets around Dowagiac. Fruitbelt Woodcarvers will have demonstrations, and a timber carver will also be carving a piece of art from a large log over the course of the day as well.

In addition, many local merchants will be hosting “hibernation sales” that Saturday.

Lastly, the annual Chili Crawl will provide a way for event-goers to get a warm bite to eat and sample several types of chili from local restaurants.

“Our Chili Crawl will feature five chili recipes from our downtown restaurants. They will be competing for the travelling plaque,” said Lamphere. “Last year’s winner, Front Street Crossing/COA, will be defending their title against four competitors: Wood Fire, The Wounded Minnow, Beeson Street Grill and Zeke’s Restaurant.”

Many more activities are planned for the day, and a complete schedule can be found on the Greater Dowagiac Area Chamber of Commerce website at

As Lamphere noted, an event like this would be not be possible without a lot of community support and participation.

“We have lots of great volunteers helping out from 1st Source Bank, the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival and Front Street Crossing/COA,” Lamphere said.