Greg Butauski, with Artic Diamond and the National Ice Carving Association’s 2014 Ice Carving Champion, set up an ice sculpture in front of the Historic Courthouse on Jan. 20, 2017, during IceFest in downtown Hamilton IceFest happens every two years. FILE
Photo: hubbard
Photo: hubbard

Are you ready for IceFest this winter? Organizers say it will be here before you know it.

Taylor Welch, on the other hand, has been living it. He’s been planning Hamilton’s 2019 IceFest, which will happen Jan. 18 and 19 — a Friday and Saturday.

The theme for the every-two-year event will be Game Night, which can take on anything from sporting events, video and board games, or other fun things.

“It’s six months out, and we feel like we’re rushing because it’s going to be here before we know it,” said Welch, the event’s sponsorship chairman. “But when you talk to other people, they’re like, ‘IceFest? That’s so far away….’”

IceFest, a free event, occupies sidewalks on the southern edge of High Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to at least the courthouse. That side of the street is picked because the buildings offer shade for the sculptures. Food trucks, music and arts vendors also enliven the festival.

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The 2017 IceFest featured more than 70 iceworks. The next event will feature the second-ever Fire-and-Ice event, where sculptors will create a large ice artwork featuring fire as a design element. Afterward, the piece will be lit on fire. Also, there will be the Technicolor Ice Walk, in which glistening sculptures are backlit with colors.

IceFest is the primary fundraiser for City of Sculpture, a non-profit organization with an all-volunteer board and other volunteers who organize the event. Individuals, companies and other organizations pay to sponsor sculptures that are created for IceFest.

Brady Lantz, owner of Forest Park-based “Artic Diamond,” which specializes in ice carvings, said his company will use about 200 blocks of ice, each 40-by-20-by-1o-inches and weighing 300 pounds.

A primary goal of the 2019 IceFest will be to raise money for a significant sculpture to mark City of Sculpture’s 20th anniversary, which happens in 2020. The design and location it will be installed have not been finalized.

“We’re excited about the 2019 IceFest,” Lantz said. “I like the theme of Game Night. I’m looking forward to it, for sure.”

FROM 2017: Hamilton officially accepts gifts of 11 more sculptures

For more information about sponsoring sculptures, contact Welch at taylor@cdalliance.net.

The 2017 IceFest was too warm as sculptures melted fast.

“Our last IceFest, we had to put out half of the ice sculptures on (that) Friday, and save the other half for Saturday, to make sure there were always ice sculptures,” Welch said.

“It’s always hit or miss with the weather,” said Jacob Stone, IceFest chairman. “We pick the weekend that is traditionally the coldest weekend in the year. But that doesn’t mean that it is.”

Some years, it’s so cold the sculptures last for two weeks. Other years, they’re melting with speed in the warmth. On the positive side, warm winter weather draws crowds to the event.

The worst kind of weather for IceFest is rain, because that keeps crowds away and the rainfall melts the frozen iceworks faster than the sunshine, Welch and Stone said.

There’s also a way to learn about the sculptures and growing number of murals in Hamilton: You can obtain for free the Otocast app for your phone at Otocast.com. It contains recorded explanations about all the Hamilton pieces, along with public artworks across the country, including places like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

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