Bloomington’s second annual Freezefest celebration will begin Thursday and go through Saturday. The winter festival will feature several free, ice-themed attractions for people of all ages to enjoy.
Some of the festivities include large ice sculpture displays at four locations in Bloomington. An ice carving battle between two professional ice artists will be held Friday at Upland Brewing Company. On Saturday, live ice carving demonstrations will take place throughout Bloomington and children’s activities will be offered at the Monroe County Library.
Erin White, director of Leisure, Marketing and Media for Visit Bloomington, said the idea for Freezefest started when the event’s sponsors realized there were no festivals on their calendar during the middle of winter.
“We thought there was a hole,” White said. “We wanted to give folks a reason to visit Bloomington in the winter, maybe escape the indoors and the winter doldrums, and have something to look forward to that’s free, that’s family friendly, that’s exciting.”
Freezefest’s sponsors include Bloomington-based and local businesses such as Cook Medical, the Dimension Mill, Soma Coffee House, Upland Brewing Company, the Village Deli, William Hanna Trucking Inc., the Indiana Memorial Union Biddle Hotel and several more.
“What’s awesome about Bloomington is that there are so many organizations that come together to create fantastic events,” White said.
White said she hopes this year’s Freezefest goes smoother than the first, which was held during a warm and rainy week in January 2020. Last year’s Freezefest was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
White said she hopes the cold weather prevents the ice sculptures from melting through this weekend and beyond.
“We’re really hoping to kind of get a do-over with this year’s event, knowing that the cold temps are going to start setting in,” White said. “The stage has been set for a perfect winter festival.”
Additional winter events are being held this weekend in Bloomington. The city’s Parks and Recreation department is hosting Winter Palooza, a family event with kid-friendly games and crafts, from 3-5 p.m. Saturday at Switchyard Park.
Bill Ream, community events coordinator with Parks and Recreation, said the event has activities both kids and their parents will appreciate, like a yeti and penguin scavenger hunt, winter-themed crafts and a “penguin shuffle” game.
“Families in past years have seemed to enjoy it quite a bit, so we hope that will happen again this year,” Ream said.
Bill Thistlewaite is the operations manager at Ice of America, a group of world renowned ice artists who assist in ice festivals across the midwest. He said he’s excited for people to see the ice carvers’ talents during the ice battle at Upland Brewing Company this Friday.
He compared the ice battles to a World Wrestling Entertainment match – two carvers will go head-to-head, they’ll play loud music, an emcee will be commentating throughout the competition and the audience will decide the winner based on applause. The carvers try to make the event as interesting and dramatic for the audience as possible.
Thistlewaite said he thinks ice sculpting is a special type of art because it’s something people don’t always see. He said it’s a temporary kind of art, unlike a painting or drawing that lasts forever.
“They’ll do it and depending on the weather it’s gone rather quickly,” Thistlewaite said. “It’s like watching a symphony — you go there, you listen to the symphony, and when it’s over it’s over.”
Thistlewaite said he enjoyed working with organizations that want to do something fun for their community.
“Bloomington is the most enthusiastic I’ve seen for a second year,” Thistlewaite said. “This does a lot to bring a community together on cold, nasty weekends.”
A detailed event schedule and parking information can be found on Visit Bloomington’s website.