The polar vortex that brought frigid temperatures to a big part of the U.S. and Canada this past week may be easing a bit, but it's got cold weather on our minds. We can stay in and weather it out, or we can embrace it, like some northern communities do. Some even have annual festivals in January to celebrate ice, snow, and the charms of winter weather. Let's take a look at a few of them, and just hope that a blizzard doesn't spoil the festivities!
1. Ouray Ice Festival
The 19th annual Ouray Ice Festival takes place today through Sunday at Ouray Ice Park in Ouray, Colorado. The public park has 200 climbing routes made of ice and mixed ice and rock, and is a popular destination for ice climbers, and the festival is a celebration of climbing. It's also a fundraiser for the non-profit park. Events include parties tonight, climbing clinics, films and demonstrations, and climbing competitions.
2. The Big Chill
The Big Chill in Racine, Wisconsin, this weekend is a municipal festival that's also the host of the Wisconsin State Snow Sculpting Championship for the third year. A dozen huge snow sculptures will be constructed in downtown Racine by two-man teams hoping to advance to the national competition. Other events include ice sculpture carving, dogsled rides, and the more common festival activities.
3. Plymouth Ice Festival
The city of Plymouth, Michigan will hold the annual Plymouth Ice Festival this Friday through Sunday. In addition to the usual festival events, there will be traditional ice carving contests for both individuals and teams, and the dueling chainsaws contest, which is a timed ice-carving contest. The sky will be lit by blazing ice towers on Friday and Saturday nights.
4. Icebox Days
International Falls, Minnesota, celebrates its reputation as the coldest town in the 48 contiguous states with the Icebox Days winter festival, January 16-19. The marquee event is the annual Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run with both 5K and 10K runs, no matter what the temperature will be. Don't miss the other events: the ugly hat contest, the moonlight snowshoe hike, the toilet seat toss, turkey bowling, basketball and hockey games, and plenty of food.
5. Hunter Ice Festival
The Hunter Ice Festival in Niles, Michigan is named after The Hunter Brothers Ice & Ice Cream Company, which established ice harvesting as the town's big industry around the turn of the 20th century. The festival, which takes place January 17-20, centers around ice sculptures, and the best artists in the craft are invited to Niles to show their stuff. There will also be races, the Ice Ball, and a chili cook-off.
6. Bavarian Icefest
The Bavarian Icefest takes place in Leavenworth, Washington, January 18-19. Events include dogsled rides, the "ice cube scramble" for kids, snow sculptures, ice carving, ice fishing, a snowball toss, a snowmobile sled pull, and smooshing. Smooshing is a sport in which teams of four people ski together on one set of skis.
7. Fire & Ice Festival
The Fire & Ice Festival in Rochester, Michigan, takes place on the weekend of January 24-26. The fire is provided by fireworks at night; the ice events include tube sledding, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, dog sled rides, ice skating, a broom ball exhibition, and ice sculptures. New this year: a food truck rally. Bring your ice skates for free skating all weekend! More events are listed at the Facebook page.
8. IceFest '14
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, presents the 12th annual IceFest from January 30 through February 2. The festival features a 40-foot ice slide, a scavenger hunt, and a "Polar Dunk Plunge." There's also nighttime dancing and dining events for those who like to stay warm, and a chili cook-off and a cake icing competition. The premiere draw will be the over 70 ice sculptures that will be on display throughout the town. Find out more at the festival's Facebook page.
9. Michigan Ice Fest
The Michigan Ice Fest in Munising, Michigan, is a festival centered around ice climbing. This year's event will be held from January 30 through February 2. There will be clinics and classes in the various levels of climbing, from beginners to rescue techniques, and demonstrations and social climbs.
10. Saint Paul Winter Carnival
The Saint Paul Winter Carnival will be 11 days long: January 23 to February 2 in St. Paul, Minnesota (of course). This event kicks off the Carnival season in style. Such a large festival requires three parades, plus the Beer Dabbler, the royalty coronation, ice sculptures, and the usual races, parties, live entertainment, and food.
Carnival season? Oh, you bet there will be more festivals in February. Watch for those coming soon!