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Ice carvers transform Richmond, Ind., into a wonderland during Meltdown festival

Richmond Ice Festival Cat Carving.jpg
Meltdown Winter Ice Festival

Five ice carvers from across the country are transforming Richmond, Ind., into a chilly art gallery this week. The 9th annual Meltdown Winter Ice Festival runs Jan. 25-29.

"Oh, it's so fun!," exclaims Alison Zajdel, Meltdown committee member. "It is a time when we get out of our winter slump and everyone from Richmond gathers together. ... It's a fun way to get out of the blues that a lot of people get in January."

Carvers spend the week at Elstro Plaza carving about 50 sculptures from more than 20,000 pounds of ice. On Friday the artworks are placed around town for people to enjoy on foot or from their vehicles.

"Some of them are really big, like chairs you can sit in," Zajdel says. "One year we even had a Model T because this is where the Model T Ford Club of America is. ... We've had all kinds of cool stuff but then we also have some little ones here and there - last year we had a sled dog team ... we've had a lot of fun with Star Wars in the last couple of years."

Children pose with a man holding a dinosaur toy while taking a break from carving a dinosaur from a block of ice.
Meltdown Winter Ice Festival
An ice carver poses with kids during a previous Meltdown festival.

Zajdel acknowledges COVID-19 has been hard on everyone. She sees the festival as a way to find some joy during the pandemic.

"We want this festival to be a time when people can celebrate and have a glimpse of goodness in the winter," she says. "We've taken precautions - we want to make sure we're not stressing our health care system more than they're already stressed. We've really eliminated indoor events."

She expects thousands of people will visit throughout the week - many from Richmond, but plenty from out of town as well. Various types of events are spread throughout the week.

The main event is an ice carving competition on Saturday, Jan. 29 at 7:30 p.m. The five carvers compete on a main stage to rapidly carve intricate sculptures using chainsaws, chisels, handsaws and blow torches.

The sculptures will remain in place until they melt.