Ice carvers adapt for warm temps before Hunter Ice Festival

NOW: Ice carvers adapt for warm temps before Hunter Ice Festival

NILES, Mich. – Chainsaws could be heard in downtown Niles, as ice carvers worked diligently to get around 90 unique sculptures ready for the start of the Hunter Ice Festival, set to kick off on Friday.

One of the carvers, Dean DeMarias, showed me one of the sculptures he was working on.

“This is a requested piece. We have Hedwig the Owl, from Harry Potter,” said DeMarias. “A nice, little snow owl.”

This is DeMarias’s 11th year coming to Niles for the festival, all the way from Dallas, Texas.

“I was hoping for colder weather,” joked DeMarias.

Yeah, you should’ve come a couple weeks ago! I told him.

“Yeah, y’all had a good one a couple weeks ago,” he said.

While the warmer weather beats below freezing temps, it makes work for carvers like DeMarias a little more complicated.

“We just have to work a little different,” he said. “We can’t leave pieces out, we have to keep them refrigerated in the freezer. We work on them for a short period of time out here and try to get them back as quick as we can.”

Despite the warmer temps today, it’s expected to cool off for the weekend of the festival, which the carvers are hoping for.

DeMarias said, “If we can get the snow they were talking about, and just at least get the freezing temperatures, maybe not the below freezing. We know that certainly keeps too many people inside. But there’ll be plenty of hot food, hot drinks around.”

He added that dealing with the weather is something he’s gotten used to in all his years carving for the festival.

“My first year here, I think we saw -12 and snow flurries and lake effect snow, and all that good stuff, all that I’d ever hoped to see,” he remembered. “But we’ve had wet days and rainy days. That’s just part of it sometimes.”

His thoughts on the sculptures making it through the weekend?

“Depends on the weather. That’s mother nature, there,” he said. “I can’t control that, you know that!”

Luckily for the ice sculptures and the carvers, with the cooling temps, there will still be a chance to see their hard work and the unique sculptures on display all weekend long during the Hunter Ice Festival, which runs from January 13-15.

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