Ice is Nice – When it Comes to Sculptures

10th annual Ice Festival and 7th annual Chowder Cook-Off coming December 8 – 10 in Ithaca

Downtown Ithaca is gearing up to present its 10th annual Ice Festival, the community’s beloved three-day, multifaceted celebration that pairs a nationally-sanctioned ice carving competition featuring some of the country’s best carvers with a day-long chowder cook-off where local restaurants aim to garner public votes for their freshly prepared stock concoctions.    

From December 8-10, the Commons will be filled with masterfully skilled ice carvers using chisels, chainsaws and blowtorches to craft exquisitely detailed multi-shaped and -sized ice sculptures. Visitors will be able to watch the ice shaping competition while savoring beers, wines, or hot cocoa from a bar made completely out of solid ice.

The multi-day event kicks off December 8 from 5 to 9 p.m., with the opening of the ice bar on the Commons. Guests will be able to enjoy a sampling of frosty beers from Bacchus Brewing Company and a variety of tasty wines from Six Mile Creek Vineyard. Hot cocoa and coffee from Waffle Frolic will also be served during this happy hour style activity.  At 6 p.m., Downtown Ithaca will light the decorated 20-foot-tall fir in Bank Alley as part of a ceremonial holiday lighting event before Nate the Great entertains the crowds with his impressive juggling act and Cosmic Karma Fire Dance astonishes the audience with its flame-fueled performance.

During the second day of the festivities, visitors are encouraged to view the exhilarating Speed Carving Challenge when roughly a dozen of the country’s finest ice carvers, including national, world, and Olympic champions will go head-to-head and race against a clock to complete detailed sculptures in just 20 minutes using a limited selection of tools. This challenge is scheduled for 5 to 9 p.m., and the ice bar will be open during that time, too!

For Saturday’s activities, you’d better prepare your eyes and palate for a surreal experience.  From 5 to 9 p.m., the carving experts will go toe-to-toe again, this time for the Carve and Deliver competition. During this contest, the competing carvers must craft and deliver an ice sculpture to a downtown location in just three hours. From 2 to 6 p.m., the sculptors will then compete in the final leg of the competitions: the Two-Block Showpiece Challenge. This event separates the amateurs from the elites as the carvers will attempt to garner the most points by crafting intricate and dramatic large-scale pieces. Last year, the top-ranked creations were a pterodactyl, a seated dragon holding a ball and a vicious crab.

Come see if Guinness World Record holding ice sculptor Rich Daly, the Ice Wars 2016 champ from Long Island, can beat his record holding time and reclaim the crown. Aaron Costic from Ohio, TJ Neary from Staten Island, Jerry Perun from Marcellus, Wei-Sen Liang from Taiwan, and Ithaca Ice Fest first time competitors Alex Wagner and Katlin Proffer, both from Michigan, will also be competing for top times and finalist positions.  

Beginning at noon, experience the 7th Annual Chowder Cook-Off, a tastebud-tantalizing experience where festival goers can sample chowders and bisques of all varieties – seafood, meat and vegetarian – served by many of the area’s best chefs. Recipes will range from the traditional to the gourmet and exotic. Make sure to walk The Commons, Aurora and Cayuga streets and the Dewitt Mall to locate some of the participating establishments. Tasters will vote on their favorite chowders and one lucky chef is awarded the coveted title of Chowder Cook-Off Champion.

Also, get your holiday baked goods fix tended to on Saturday at the Habitat for Humanity’s Annual Cookie Walk. This cookie extravaganza returns to Center Ithaca from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the ice bar will open from noon to 5 p.m., and the Mt. Pleasant Dog Sled Team will conduct demonstrations from 2 to 4 p.m.

Don’t miss your chance to attend. Advance tickets for the Chowder Cook-Off are available (cash only) at the Downtown Visitors Center on Monday, December 5.

If you are purchasing tickets for a large group or by credit card, call the Downtown Ithaca Alliance at 607-277-8679 or visit us in Center Ithaca (171 East State St.). Tickets will also be available the day of Chowder Cook-Off at the Ticket Booth on the Commons.

For day-to-day updates, please visit the Downtown Ithaca Facebook Page.