With the Plymouth Ice Festival one week away, organizer Sam Walton says he has been losing sleep.
The restlessness doesn't come from the organizational or fundraising standpoint for the famed winter festival, however. Walton says the unseasonably mild temperatures this winter haven't been ideal for a weekend-long event that features ice with a variety of shapes, sizes and functions.
"Weather is obviously one of the biggest variables that we’ve had to deal with," Walton said.
Rather than the rain and warm temperatures of late, Walton says he is hoping for at least a dusting of snow and cold air.
There certainly is a lot at stake: The event typically draws about 100,000 people annually and is the largest free ice exhibit in the United States. The event already is stocked with a variety of local and corporate sponsors and the downtown community often relies on the extra foot traffic to boost its January traffic.
If the weather won't cooperate, Walton said, there still will be plenty for visitors to do in when the event opens Jan. 20, including a variety of interactive exhibits that won't require such wintry conditions.
Among those, Walton said, is the McDonald's Winter Fun Zone with outdoor sports exhibits, coordinated with . The three-day festival also will include appearances from stars of upcoming shows including Cirque du Soleil's Quidam and Super Grover from Sesame Street Live, who will appear at the event's Jan. 20 opening ceremonies.
Technologically inclined visitors might enjoy the festival's mobile video game system, which allows users to sit on ice while playing the latest software offerings. The event also will feature live music from the Shawn Riley Band and more food options than previous years, Walton said.
In his third year of promoting the event, Walton says he always is looking at ways to keep the 30-year-old festival fresh — and immune to woeful weather.
"(Just looking at ice sculptures) is like a museum to me," Walton said. "I’d rather shake it up and have people feel and touch and taste and do."
Still, he isn't overlooking the event's frozen roots and the striking sculptures that are curved during the duration of the festival.
The event was founded in 1983 by Scott Lorenz and later run by Michael Watts for 19 years.
"(Watts) did some amazing work over the years growing it into this world-class event," Walton said. "He was very focused on ice sculptures and blew people’s minds with the amount of art and talent he could bring to Plymouth every year."
Walton, who took over in 2010, is just the third promoter in the festival's long history, and he says he hopes to help keep it running at least another 30 years with the support of local businesses.
"I'm happy I was able to be involved with the event during this 30th year," he said. "Twenty-seven years before (2010), I was a lucky guy that got to come down as a spectator."
More on Patch:
- The Plymouth Ice Festival opens 3 p.m. Friday and runs through 6 p.m. Sunday. The daily hours are as follows:
Friday, Jan. 20: 3 p.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 21: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 22: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
- A daily schedule of events is viewable here.
- Attending the ice festival? Post your photos in our gallery.