The beginning of the year can sometimes feel dreary – the holidays are behind us, weather is unpredictable, and folks want to stay cuddled up warm inside their homes – but downtown is celebrating the change of the seasons with the first-ever Marietta Ice Festival on Saturday, January 18th.

An offshoot of First Friday: Fire & Ice Festival, Marietta Ice Festival is a continuation of the “ice” portion of the First Friday event that would have been in its fourth year this month. Due to concerns of weather, First Friday was first postponed and then eventually canceled.

“Unfortunately, with the high predictions of rain on both January 3rd and January 10th, our Promotions Committee surveyed downtown businesses and decided to cancel First Friday this month,” shared Cristie Thomas, Interim Director for Main Street.

“Though First Friday was canceled, it presented us with a great opportunity to launch a new event – the Ice Festival – and build a stronger anchor event into the month of January. We’ve had this idea for a while, now, so we decided to just take the leap and launch it!” said Thomas.

Artist Tyson Whistler carves a sculpture live on Front Street during a previous year’s Fire & Ice Night.

The Ice Festival is a shift away from First Friday for the “ice” component of the well-known Fire & Ice Night that has taken place during January First Friday events since 2016.

Central to the Ice Festival is the inclusion of ice – 17 ice sculptures, to be exact – and a live sculpture carving to be held at the Armory starting at 3 p.m. While installing each sculpture in varied locations downtown only takes about an hour, local artist Tyson Whistler starts preparing for the Festival in October.

“It may seem like we snap our fingers and Tyson magically makes these beautiful sculptures appear, but freezing each 300 lb. block of ice takes about three days and then carving each sculpture takes a minimum of three hours. Of course, it takes just three hours because Tyson has years worth of experience and a lifetime of artfulness to tie back to,” shared Thomas.

The Ice Festival is sponsored by Glenwood Community, an independent and assisted living facility in Marietta. Ashley Bills, Director of Marketing for Glenwood, believes its important for the community to come together and support small businesses and local artists.

“In a world where a sense of community is lost in many areas, Marietta Main Street creates just the opposite by revitalizing downtown and bringing back events that showcase the amazing artistry and individuality of our people. People want to be where there is life and Marietta is thriving because of it,” says Bills.

An Ohio State Buckeyes sculpture has been carved and will be displayed outside the Marietta-Washington County CVB during Marietta Ice Festival.

Supporting local is deeply embedded with the mission of Main Street, and one reason why it’s so important to shop local is that local shops support the local community in return, fourfold compared to big-box chains. Each sculpture to be displayed during the Ice Festival has been sponsored by a downtown business.

“The Galley/Adelphia/Hackett is always glad to participate in events such as these,” says Nate Shahan, General Manager of The Galley. “Our community is so lucky to have events such as this on a regular basis that support local businesses and local artists, and to have an organization like Marietta Main Street to facilitate it all,” said Shahan.

Many downtown businesses rely on the foot traffic generated by events like the Ice Festival to support their goals of growing revenue, ultimately enabling them to hire more employees and provide more services to our community. In small towns like Marietta, the small business community is truly central to growing a strong local economy.

Jocelyn Adelsperger, Events & Marketing Coordinator for Jeremiah’s Coffee House, actively seeks out opportunities to draw the community into downtown Marietta and participates in Main Street events.

“Jeremiah’s supports all efforts to promote community engagement with historic downtown Marietta. We appreciate any event that reminds folks to get out and support local,” said Adelsperger.

The Marietta Ice Festival will take place on Saturday, January 18th from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in downtown Marietta, OH. A live sculpture carving will be hosted on the lawn of the Armory at 3 p.m. featuring artist Tyson Whistler. Guest sponsor United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley will provide activities for children, including s’mores and ice painting.