Hundreds of people bundled up for the Marietta Ice Festival on Saturday to see ice sculptures on display in downtown Marietta and to see a live ice sculpture being created.
With temperatures in the mid 40s, the race with time was on for the unique four-hour event.
Seventeen ice sculptures by local artist Tyson Whistler were displayed on the sidewalks in front of businesses on Front, Putnam, Greene and Second streets.
Originally planned to be part of Marietta Main Street’s January First Friday Fire and Ice event, it had to be rescheduled because of the unseasonably warm weather. It was rescheduled for Saturday, rain or shine. It did rain lightly but then tapered off.
Ice sculpting is an art form that is temporary because of its medium. Much like an elaborate sand castle or a live musical performance, it doesn’t last long. But it creates a lot of excitement because of its limited life and it leads to an appreciation for ice sculpting’s creative process and unique beauty.
The creator of all of the Marietta Ice Festival’s ice sculptures was Tyson Whistler, Executive Chef at the Glennwood Community, an independent and assisted living facility in Marietta and title sponsor for the event.
“I’m working on sculpture number 18 right now,” Whistler said Saturday as he was carving on a giant block of ice before a large crowd on the Armory lawn. “This will be ‘Kracken,’ a mythological squid-like creature that takes down pirate ships. This is the first part. There will be two tiers with the top being a pirate ship.
“It’s a blast to create these ice sculptures,” said Whistler, who has been ice sculpting for about 15 years. “My favorite ones this year are probably the octopus sculpture and the Ohio State sculpture.”
“Every year people want to see more and more and we are doing our best to make this festival grow,” he said.
With the Marietta Ice Festival starting to carve its way into being a popular community event, it looks like organizers plan to make the festival an annual event on its own.
“The sculptures are amazing, as they always are,” said Marietta Main Street Interim Director Cristie Thomas. “Some of the sponsors are the same as we’ve had in the past and Tyson tries to redesign the sculptures that he provides for them so there are some new ones. He has done all 17 of the ice sculptures this year and will be sculpting a piece live on the Armory lawn, which will be the eighteenth.”
“This event is terrific,” said Marietta Main Street board member and Clutch MOV owner Sarah Arnold, who was excited about the ice festival. “It’s a great way to showcase an art form that we don’t often get to see. It’s neat that we have local artists who have that type of skill and are willing to share it with the community.”
Marietta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Executive Director Deana Clark said she thought the Ice Festival is a fabulous event.
“As far as I know, Marietta has the only ice sculpture festival in Southeastern Ohio,” said Clark. “This is a great place to come and visit.”
On the Armory lawn, Glennwood Community employees handed out hot chocolate donated by Jeremiah’s Coffee House and the United Way Alliance had a booth for children to make s’mores and had activities. With the event going into the early evening hours, many businesses stayed open and it gave everyone a chance to see the ice sculptures colorfully lit after dark.
“This festival is neat,” said Katy Sulfridge, of Vincent, as her son Blair Sulfridge, 5, was making a s’more. “Blair watches the PBS kids show, ‘Molly of Denali,’ where they showed ice sculptures. We thought it would be fun to come and see an ice sculpture being created in real life and of course, s’mores are always popular. The organizers did a great job pulling this together after the weather was too warm earlier.”
“I love this event. I’ve participated in it every year,” said Baker and Baker owner Larry Hall who had a diamond ring ice carving on display outside of his jewelry store.
“I think it’s absolutely magnificent,” continued Hall. “Anything we can do to get people milling around downtown and get their attention is great. Tyson does a great job. He’s very talented.”
“This event is something different,” said Drema Gillespie, of Barlow, who attended with he husband Darrell. “It’s something to do on a Saturday afternoon in January. I think it’s great what they’re doing and drawing people in. It’s great that Marietta is always bringing in something new and interesting. It keeps people coming downtown.”
Marci Marple, of Marietta and owner of Valu Vacs. thought it was great for area businesses.
“It’s great that they are doing this to promote the downtown area merchants,” said Marple. “They are a very important part of our town.”