18th annual Hunter Ice Festival to take place Jan. 14-16

Published 3:15 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2022

NILES — One of the Niles community’s most popular events is set to take shape next week.

The 18th annual Hunter Ice Festival will take place from Friday, Jan. 14 to Sunday, Jan. 16 in Niles’ downtown area.

The annual event is free and open to the public. Dozens of expertly carved ice sculptures from prominent artists including former NICA National Champion Aaric Kendall along with master carvers Dean DeMarais, Buchanan’s Josh Nivens and Niles native Danny Bloss will be placed around the downtown for people to view.

Event-goers taking in the sculptures will also be able to shop to their heart’s content at many downtown businesses that will be open during the festival.

“It’s really amazing, world-class ice carving,” said DDA board member Justin Flagel. “Some of the best ice carvers in the world come here to do this. It’s gonna be great.”

The festival is named in honor of Henry and Lemont Hunter, who moved to Niles from Wisconsin in 1898 to open the Hunter Ice Brothers Company on Barron Lake, the first known ice business and the first industry in Howard Township, according to Niles History Center.

Local businesses sponsor the event hosted by the Niles DDA Main Street. More than 30 tons of ice for the sculptures will be delivered Friday, Jan. 7 and the carvers will start Sunday, Jan. 8.

“You’ll start to see those sculptures popping up throughout next week,” Flagel said. “It’s going to be pretty fantastic, lots of great things to see for people who wander downtown and shop around while they’re doing so.

Like last year’s event, warming stations will not be available due to the ongoing pandemic. However, festival favorites like the Fire and Ice ceremony will return, taking place that Friday evening. The Frigid 5K Run will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday and the Speed Carving Show Saturday evening. The Interactive Family Fun Ice Park and Ice Hill Slide will both be available during the festival.

“We’re hoping to get back to a more normal festival,” Flagel said. “The Fire and Ice ceremony will draw people into town. Niles businesses will be open and ready to offer what they have. Plus, there are plenty of great places to get a bite to eat or something to drink while folks are checking out the ice.”

Flagel has been a part of the Hunter Ice Festival planning process for five years and believes the event puts the best aspects of the community on display.

“Having an event like this downtown showcases all of the awesome things downtown Niles has to offer,” he said. “We really get fantastic ice carvers that are award-winning and have talent to show off. The combination of bringing that talent to Niles and everything downtown has to offer really makes for a nice event. I hope people come out and enjoy it.”