Grand Rapids has had its share of Hollywood stars in town filming big screen movies, thanks in large part to Michigan’s tax credits for the film industry. Now, the spotlight will shine on Rockford, thanks to the Food Network and a new series they are shooting with Grand Rapids-based Ice Sculptures LTD.
Earlier this year, Ice Sculptures LTD caught the attention of the Food Network by creating a full-size pool table, cue sticks, and balls made out of ice—which you could actually play without breaking; no pun intended—for Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Ice Sculptures LTD owners Randy Finch and Derek Maxfield also have an impressive resume, having created ice sculptures for the White House, the Super Bowl, and Hollywood, just to drop a few names. They are the featured ice carvers for Rockford’s Second Annual Ice Festival, to be held in downtown Rockford on Saturday, Jan. 8, from noon to 4 p.m.
Ice carving is a discipline of the culinary arts, hence the connection to the Food Network. The upcoming series, “Ice Brigade,” will begin airing in April. More than 30 producers and support staff have been in Grand Rapids and points beyond filming Ice Sculptures LTD in action.
For the Rockford Ice Festival, Finch, Maxfield and team are creating a very special sculpture for the ninth hole of the ice miniature golf course. The hole is being sponsored by the City of Rockford’s Downtown Development Authority. While the exact structure will remain a surprise until Saturday, it has been engineered with the help of Ferris State University and is a Rube Goldberg-type invention. The miniature golf hole will have all kinds of interactive parts, and will be the focus of the Food Network festival filming.
Rockford High School media students also will have the opportunity to work with the Food Network producers, assisting with filming-related activities and securing releases for visitors who may appear on television. Members of the school’s Youth Initiative Community Service Club also will be volunteering throughout the festival.
Other festival activities include:
• a four-hour carving demonstration on Reds’ deck—think Captain of the Seven Seas;
• showstopper sculptures in front of the Welcome Center (sponsored by the City of Rockford) and Promenade South building (sponsored by Trendwell Energy);
• miniature golf holes (sponsored by Byrne Electric, Cannonsburg Wood Products, dentists Drs. Dater & Cadorette, Greenleaf Landscape Supply, Katerberg VerHage Landscape, Thousand Oaks, and Valley City Linen);
• an interactive sports wall (sponsored by Glenn Morris & Associates and The Gremel Group);
• Art in the Park (sponsored by the Rockford Area Arts Council)—2 p.m. Rogue River Community Theatre performance near the gazebo in Peppler Park, west of the dam;
• a scavenger hunt to locate all the sculptures, including those sponsored by area businesses (including A Charmed Life… Nail Salon, Baskets in the Belfry, ChoiceOne Bank, D&W Fresh Market, DoubleTake Resale, Great Northern Trading Co., Herman’s Boy, J.T. Stitchery & Frame Shop, Kimberly’s Boutique, Maghielse & Company Five Star Real Estate, Meijer, Rockford Chamber of Commerce, Sage & Roses, Sylvan Learning Center, The Corner Bar, Wolverine World Wide, Wynalda Litho, and YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids);
• electronic voting and a Facebook photo contest in the heated Rotary Pavilion (sponsored by Great Lakes Narrowcast);
• prizes for completing the scavenger hunt map, guessing the melt dates, and voting for the best golf hole and ice sculpture;
• free hot cocoa provided in the Pavilion by Wolverine World Wide Family YMCA—donations will be accepted for Strong Kids Scholarships;
• downtown businesses offering festival-related sales and promotions;
• a Grilling On Ice demonstration at Herman’s Boy—free hot cocoa provided during the demonstration showing how you can grill outside in the winter.
Festival organizer Meredith Gremel noted last year’s inaugural event drew more than 6,000 guests. “This year we have really kicked it up a notch and we are very excited to have the Food Network in downtown Rockford to see what a really special town we have,” said Gremel. “Many ice festivals are based on carving competitions, but our focus is on involving visitors with the free mini golf course, sports wall, scavenger hunt, and contests for prizes. Plus, Reds’ carving demo will be amazing to watch, as will the demo in front of the Corner Bar.”
Gremel also expressed special thanks to the festival sponsors as well as the City of Rockford for assistance with potential snow removal, setup, Pavilion use and heat, and emergency backup services; Cannonsburg Wood Products for donating the wood pallets for sculpture display; Thousand Oaks Golf Course for use of flag poles and putters; Rockford Public Schools for assistance with volunteers and festival promotion; and several HEART of Rockford Business Association members who donated items and gift cards for prizes.
Be sure to head to Rockford this Saturday. If you can’t make it, stop by in the coming weeks. The sculptures—with the exception of the ninth hole Rube Goldberg structure—will remain on display until Mother Nature does away with them.