People across Michiana visit Hunter Ice Festival despite snow

Published 1:34 pm Saturday, January 19, 2019


NILES — Snowfall seemed only to add to the ambiance for those who flocked to the Hunter Ice Festival Saturday.

The three-day festival kicked off Friday with clear but cold weather that turned snowy and blustery Saturday. More than 100 ice sculptures were placed throughout the downtown for the 15th annual event. Local businesses served as warming centers, providing hot chocolate and coffee to those looking for a little respite from the chill.

The Hunter Ice Festival is hosted by the Niles DDA Main Street and sponsored by local businesses.

Director of Niles DDA Main Street Lisa Croteau said last year’s sculptures did not last long due to unusually warm weather.

“There are less people out when it was 63 degrees,” Croteau said. “But there is an awful lot more ice to see this year. We have got some pretty amazing pieces.”

On the corner of Fourth and Main streets, ice carver Edwin Hutchison, of Greenville, South Carolina, worked on a sculpture as the snow continued to fall. Hutchison said he did not mind the storm and was glad that the cold would help to keep his sculptures intact throughout the festival.

Bundled in heavy winter coats, scarves and mittens, Melody and Don Steiner, of South Bend, and their 1-year-old- granddaughter Brecken Steiner, watched ice Hutchison wield a chain saw to create a carving.

“We thought she [Brecken] would enjoy it,” Melody said. “It’s amazing what [the ice carvers] can do with a chainsaw.”

Despite the falling snow, the family said they were looking forward to trying some Hunter Ice Cream.

Among the businesses giving people a break from the cold was the soon-to-open Atomic Bean Coffee Shop, 205 E. Main St. The former Top Heavy Coffee Shop was recently purchased by Relevant Church. Baristas helped to pour hot chocolate and coffee beverages to chilled patrons throughout the day.

Sarah Shirk, Relevant’s ministry coordinator and director of connections, served as a barista during the soft opening. She said Friday night the shop was busy. Due to the weather, she said there was less of a crowd Saturday morning, but that business was picking up again later that morning.

“I think personally, it’s been a great turnout,” Shirk said. “Having the opportunity to have the community come and experience the culture and drinks during these three days is good for business.”

With the coffee shop officially opening at 7 a.m. Monday, Shirk said she believed attendance during the festival would give them the exposure they needed to have customers return to the shop.

Within the next couple of days, there will be plenty of Hunter Ice Festival activities. Croteau said that despite the weather, the schedule is expected to continue as usual.

“So far so good,” Croteau said. “It’s Michigan. It’s snowing. People are having fun.”


Here’s what’s next:

Sunday, Jan. 20

  • 10 a.m. — Bloody Mary Bar at The Brass Eye
  • 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — UltraCamp Welcome Center including the Psi Iota Xi Family Craft Activities
  • 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Hunter Ice Cream Booth, south side of Main between Front and Second streets
  • 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Shelf Life Bookstore is open. All proceeds support downtown Niles events, such as the Hunter Ice Festival.
  • Noon to 3 p.m. — Children’s Sledding Hill, 400 Block of Main/South Side. This is contingent upon if there is snow.

Noon to 3 p.m. — “Chili Crawl” – Chili Cook-off.  Tickets at Welcome Center and Hunter Ice Cream Booth. Cost is $5.

  • 1 to 3 p.m. – Chocolate Feast with the “Frozen” Sistersat The Grand LV. Ticket and reservations required. For more information call (269) 591-0334. Tickets cost $5.
  • 3 p.m. — The Toona’s at Front Street Pizza
  • 4 p.m. — “People’s Choice” Chili Cook-Off Awards, UltraCamp Welcome Center, 123 E Main St.

All Day – Interactive Ice Park on Main between Bridge & Front Street

Additional activities: Escape the Cell at Euphoric Stage. Times are 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18; 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19 and noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. Sunday Jan. 20.