E. Indiana ice festival returning for a 2nd year

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RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) — An eastern Indiana ice festival that spotlights the chilly work of skilled ice-carvers will be back for a second year after sponsors stepped up with the needed funds to prevent its cancellation.

Richmond's MELTDOWN Winter Ice Festival had been in danger of cancellation, prompting the event's organizing committee to recently issue a plea for an additional $4,500 in sponsorships and donations for the free family event.

But the festival in the city about 65 miles east of Indianapolis is "now a go," and set for Jan. 30-31 and Feb. 1 in Richmond's Historic Depot District, said Mary Walker, executive director of the Wayne County Convention & Tourism Bureau.

Organizers say last year's inaugural festival drew about 5,000 visitors and had more than 75,000 Facebook page views.

And it also brought a surge in business to restaurants in the depot district, boosting those eateries in the lean period many businesses experience after consumers scale back spending following Christmas and New Year's.

Walker said local and out-of-town visitors attending the ice festival stop in shops or restaurants along the way to warm up, buy a souvenir or buy some food or hot beverages.

"This really helps businesses. It has the ability to inject dollars into our economy at a time when they are very much needed," she told the Palladium-Item (http://pinews.co/1JOMVjT ).

The festival is being marketed regionally. Walker said Indianapolis' Fox 59 TV station already has committed to coming to the event. She expects Dayton and Bloomington TV crews might return, too.

The ice festival is expensive to offer because of the supplies and personnel needed to support it, including between 22 and 25 tons of ice the sculptors need, said Richmond Parks and Recreation Department superintendent Bill Thistlethwaite.

Thistlethwaite said the participating carvers — including his son — are all world-class, award-winning professionals and have culinary school backgrounds.

Organizers also had made plans to expand the festival following last year's well-received event. Those changes include providing more room for the crowds that gathered last year to watch professional ice-carvers compete in "ice fights."

This year's festival will have a higher number of larger sculptures with improved lighting to draw even more people.

Committee member Mary Jo Clark said this year's festival will offer an educational activity to help connect local students with ice carvers. The carvers have culinary school backgrounds and would share information with students about how important education is for their careers.


Information from: Palladium-Item, http://www.pal-item.com

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