Chips to fly at downtown’s first Ice Festival Saturday

Derek Maxfield of Ice Sculptures Inc. carves during ArtPrize last summer.Derek Maxfield of Ice Sculptures Inc. carves during ArtPrize last summer.

Demonstrations, activities all free

Another world-class event will be held in downtown Rockford this Saturday, Jan. 9, as the public is invited to enjoy a wintery day of family activities and the chance to see professional ice sculpture in action.

The first ever Ice Festival is this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in downtown Rockford. Grand Rapids-based Ice Sculptures, LTD will have several professionals on hand with chainsaws, torches, irons and other implements of their profession turning ice into art during live ice-carving demonstrations from noon to 4 p.m.

The company has been featured on Ripley’s Believe It or Not, has done work for the Discovery Channel, the Superbowl and the World Series. Those willing to venture out on a winter day in Michigan can see them at work live and free of charge. The live ice carving demonstration will take place on the deck by Reds on the River, but there will be other activities available for the day.

“Kids are really fascinated by this,” said Randy Finch, co-founder of the company, who began in the unusual occupation during his work as chef at Cygnus. He said the art is an off-shoot of the culinary field, and he began to concentrate full-time on the sculpting in 1989. Since then he has found plenty of work. “If you have seen an ice sculpture around here, chances are it was ours,” he said.

In addition to the live demonstrations of ice carving, the day’s activities include mini golf at Garden Club Park and the chance to view a horse and carriage sculpture in front of the Welcome Center (by Great Northern Trading Company). The 12-foot, 2,000-plus-pound creation is so large it has to be cut into pieces to transport and reassemble on site. Also at Garden Club Park, Great Northern Trading Company and Baskets in the Belfry are sponsoring a snowman photo booth where you can snap a unique shot through the ice snowman. Other contests will be to estimate the demise of the ice sculptures, and guess how many objects are frozen into one of the blocks of ice. Winners will receive prizes, when warmer weather puts an end to the ice creations.

Finch said several carvers will be at work during the demonstrations as ice carving is very labor intensive. He said in his business, computers are now used in some of the creations his company offers, which guarantee a perfect product and also bring down the price of ice scuptures. Smaller creations, including a Valentine’s Day sculpture, can run as low as $45. Other, more elaborate works can run as high as $30,000 or $40,000.

Among the sculptures carvers will create on site will be a mermaid, snowflake, a chef and more. Finch said viewers will likely be surprised by some of the tools of his trade, such as a clothing iron that makes a perfect surface for adhering different pieces of the sculptures. Blow torches work like sandpaper, creating a polished exterior.

“This is going to be a great winter festival that will get nothing but better and better each year,” Finch said. “Usually in Michigan in the middle of January there isn’t a lot going on. Rockford is pretty walkable and enjoyable anyway. You throw in something like this and you have a party. Rockford was made for a festival like this.”

To see examples of some of Ice Sculptures’ works, visit The festival is sponsored by the City of Rockford, the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, Heart of Rockford Business Association and individual businesses.

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