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This Small Indiana Town is Bringing in 28,000 lbs. of Ice for Its Annual Ice Festival

December 14, 2018
        A mannequin sits at a grand piano made entirely out of ice.

Putting all of our attempts at a snowman to shame, the town of Shipshewana, Indiana, will be lining its streets with immensely detailed ice sculptures for its 11th annual Ice Festival.

Attendees can see more than 15 sculptors carve, shave and pick away at 300- and 600-pound blocks of ice on December 27, and then stick around for the judging on December 28.

“That week between Christmas and New Year’s, a lot of kids are out of school and families are looking for things to do. It’s just a nice, relaxing thing to do: watch the carving, go and get some hot chocolate, then go back out and watch some more,” said Laurie Sherck, director for the Shipshewana Retail Merchants Association.

City’s Pure Ice in La Porte will haul in the ice blocks the day before the festival - roughly 28,000 pounds in total, according to Sherck. Then, the sculptors will turn that into anything from a Nativity scene to a grand piano and even a life-sized sleigh, perfect for a chilly photo op.

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Carving works that detailed usually takes the sculptors all day, starting around 10 a.m. and going until late evening. A few of the sculptors even choose to take on multiple projects around town.

After all the sculpting, a panel of judges picks the winners on the 28th, with cash prizes handed out to the top three winners.

The Ice Festival is a huge draw for Shipshewana, the third-largest Amish community in the U.S. The town’s population hovers at less than 700, but Sherck says thousands more come into Shipshewana for the festival.

“Even though the population itself is small, it’s a hopping town,” Sherck said.

Part of the Ice Festival on the 28th includes a chili cook-off, where even more prizes are handed out to winners, this time voted on by guests. It’s a chance for people to warm up a bit after spending the day around towering blocks of ice.

And if you happen to miss this year’s Ice Festival, Sherck said the sculptures will be up…well, as long as the weather lets them stay up.

A group of ice sculptors put together what will be a life-sized sleigh made of ice. (Photo: Shipshewana Ice Festival / Facebook)

The Ice Festival pretty much takes over Shipshewana for the end of December. But it’s just one event in their holiday season lineup. The famous Blue Gate Theatre has a number of Christmas-themed shows, and new this year is the Lights of Joy Drive-Thru, which puts up over 2 million LED lights across the flea market grounds.

Shipshewana goes all out for the holiday season. But even when the town goes big at Christmas, its residents try to keep things in perspective. Each of the town's attractions make a point to close on Sundays and on Christmas Day.

“Even though it’s kind of a tourism town, it’s very much a family town as well,” Sherck said. “We [place] a great deal of value in our families.”

The Shipshewana Ice Festival runs December 27 and 28, beginning at 10 a.m. both days. For more information, head to the Shipshewana website.

Featured photo courtesy of Shipshewana, Indiana, website.