Fire & Ice Festival Returns to Marietta for 4th Year

The Fire and Ice Festival returns for the fourth time to kick off Marietta Main Street’s new season of First Friday events in Downtown Marietta on Friday, January 10th. A favorite theme, the Fire & Ice Festival features expertly carved ice sculptures on display throughout downtown, hot chocolate and treat stops, extended shopping hours, special events and in-store promotions.

This year’s event is sponsored by Glenwood Retirement Community, whose head chef, Tyson Whistler, is responsible for all but one artfully carved ice sculpture that will be on display. While it requires months of preparation, Whistler said he looks forward to the event every year.

“This event is very unique, I get to showcase the art of ice sculpting in our own small town while carving multiple creative designs and logos for businesses all on the same night,” he said. “I love seeing the interest grow every year as we look to make it a continued success.”

A snowflake sculpture carved by Tyson Whistler for the first Fire & Ice Festival in 2017

Whistler began carving ice fifteen years ago, teaching himself and using each sculpture as a learning experience. Starting out, he purchased a few blocks of ice a year to carve for holidays and special events. Now, he has his own freezer, block-making machine, an arsenal of saws, tools and bits, and produces between 30 and 40 pieces each year.

Transporting the ice is the most stressful part of it all.

For this event alone, Whistler started producing ice in October. “It takes 2 ½ days to produce one 300 lb. clear carving block and we needed 20 blocks this year, assuming no breaks,” said Whistler. Carving starts three weeks prior to the event date. “The week-of is non-stop carving, detailing, and transporting. Transporting the ice is the most stressful part of it all,” he said, “and is where most of the breaks can happen. Setting up the sculptures is an all-day effort, following by four hours of live carving to finish off the day.”

Tyson spent Monday and Tuesday working on this film projector sculpture sponsored by Clutch MOV.

While many of the professional sculptors he admires use CNC milling machines for most of their carving process, Whistler strives to achieve the same polished look and complex designs using only hand-operated tools. It’s a lot of effort, but he enjoys the opportunity to hone his skills.

“Art has always been a large part of my life,” Whistler said. “Art is also very personal, usually created alone in a controlled setting, so it’s awesome to have the opportunity to put on a unique display of art throughout downtown and give the community an opportunity to see something they have may never have seen before with a medium that is very mesmerizing. The ice glistens, sparkles, yet transforms as it melts.”

I want to ensure that the quality of the sculptures and the new designs continue to drive out more and more people each year.

Whistler said the support and feedback from the community is a huge driving force. “The pressure to produce and impress the community grows every year as this event continues to grow,” he said. “I want to ensure that the quality of the sculptures and the new designs continue to drive out more and more people each year.”

Tyson watches other sculpture festivals nationally and sees the trends and opportunities available and sets goals each year for what we can accomplish.

The Fire and Ice Festival began in 2017 as the theme for Marietta Main Street’s very first First Friday. Debbie Cline, a member of the Marietta Main Street Board of Directors, reached out to Tyson to see if he would be interested in participating in an ice festival only to find out that he had a similar idea.

Tyson holds a delicately carved heart, part of the sculpture sponsored by Jeremiah’s Coffee House

“Tyson, Debbie, and I had meetings early on to discuss the possibilities and create a vision for the event,” said Cristie Thomas, Interim Executive Director for Marietta Main Street. “Tyson watches other sculpture festivals nationally and sees the trends and opportunities available and sets goals each year for what we can accomplish. Now in its fourth year, the Fire & Ice theme has grown so much with the sculptural components that in year five we’ll likely focus on the ice part solely and seek out additional sculptors to contribute pieces.”

Nearly 20 ice sculptures will be on display throughout downtown from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Friday, each a unique design inspired by the sponsoring business or an important cause. In addition to the pieces carved in advance, Whistler will do a live carving on the Armory Lawn throughout the evening.

A detailed sculpture carved by Tyson for the 2017 Fire and Ice Festival

While the event was initially scheduled for the first Friday of the month, January 4th, event organizers moved to post-pone the event one week in hopes of more favorable – colder – weather. Whistler welcomed the extra week, and said it will give him more time to design the piece he will carve on site.

It’s a great way to carry on the festive New Year spirit and prolong the holidays.

The staff at Jeremiah’s Coffee House was also relieved that the event was pushed back. “The weather forecast will allow more people to come and enjoy Tyson’s amazing craftsmanship,” said Jocelyn Adelsperger, Office Manager. “No one will want to miss these intricate works of art! It’s a great way to carry on the festive New Year spirit and prolong the holidays one more week in our beautiful historic downtown.”

Tyson carved the swan design live in front of a freezing crowd during the first Fire & Ice Festival

A second live carving will take place in Harmar. Local artist and owner of Resolve Studios Framing Todd Morrow usually works with wood and stone, but is looking forward to trying his hand at carving ice. “I like doing live carvings,” said Morrow. “I enjoy talking to people and I like for them to be able to see the tools and how they are used in the process.”

To help shoppers warm up while they view the sculptures throughout town, several restaurants will be offering hot beverage specials, including Over the Moon Pub & Pizza, Rivertown Grill, the Marietta Wine Cellars, and Jeremiah’s Coffee House.

First Friday events in downtown Marietta feature different themes each month as a fun way to keep the community engaged throughout the year. Although Fire and Ice is a returning theme, several of this year’s themes are new, including Shamrock and Roll in March, the Peep Show in April, and Community Harvest in November. The full 2020 First Friday schedule can be found on theMarietta Main Street websiteandFacebook page.

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