Last winter we discovered Midwest ice festivals. The Meltdown Winter Ice Festival in Richmond, Indiana, and the Argenta IceFest in Illinois are unlike any festivals we’d been to before. Sure, we’ve seen ice carving demonstrations in the past and plenty of completed ice sculptures on display during events, but during these two festivals, ice carving is the star.
Thank you to Richmond / Wayne County IN Convention and Visitors Bureau for providing accommodations and meals during our visit to the festival.
Meltdown Winter Ice Festival
The Meltdown Winter Ice Festival is Richmond, Indiana’s largest festival of the year. Over 50 sculptures are displayed at Jack Elstro Plaza and throughout downtown Richmond. In 2019 sculptures ranged from a life-size giraffe to interactive pieces like a checkerboard, a slide, and a ping-pong table. In the evening carvers compete chainsaw-to-chainsaw, creating huge ice-art sculptures in a matter of minutes.
Other related events in 2020 include hiking and free hot chocolate at the nearby Hayes Arboretum, children’s crafts and games along Richmond’s Enchanted Fairy Trail, and a Frosty Mugs Pub Crawl.
The Argenta IceFestival takes place in Prairie Park and in Argenta’s downtown area. Watch live demonstrations as carvers sculpt works of art out of 300-pound blocks of ice. As with the festival in Richmond, interactive sculptures like corn hole bean bags and checkers encourage festival goers to participate. Warm up downtown with a bowl of chili or at the indoor craft/vendor show.
About the Carvers
Former Richmond residents Bill Thistlewaite and his son, master carver Andrew, started Richmond’s Meltdown Winter Ice Festival as a way to help promote tourism in the area during the otherwise slow winter months.
Like many ice carvers, Andrew learned to carve when he attended culinary arts school. As part of the training, students are required to carve chocolate, cheese, beef fat, and ice. He fell in love with ice carving and now does it full time.
Aaric Kendall, an Olympic gold medal ice carver, brings his talents to his hometown of Argenta every winter. The largest sculpture he ever worked on was in Fairbanks, Alaska. It was a lighted 32-foot tall archway that took four carvers five days to create.
Several other carvers also participated in the Richmond and Argenta festivals, and some participated in both.
If You Go…
Midwest winters can be cold, so be sure to dress appropriately. Although there are some indoor options, you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors. Consider wearing thermal socks, and drop some hand warmers into your gloves.
During our visit to Richmond, Indiana, we stayed at the Best Western Classic Inn. Check rates and reviews on TripAdvisor
Visiting Argenta? We suggest staying in nearby Decatur. Check rates and reviews on TripAdvisor.