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TMCNet:  Ice cold cheer on tap in Niles [South Bend Tribune, Ind.]

[January 16, 2013]

Ice cold cheer on tap in Niles [South Bend Tribune, Ind.]

(South Bend Tribune (IN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 16--NILES -- Let the ice chips, and drips, fall where they may.

The ninth annual Hunter Ice Festival kicks off Thursday in downtown Niles, with the big question as usual the weather. Will it be so warm that the carvers' artwork quickly becomes puddles Or will it be so cold that people think twice about attending Apparently, it'll be a little of both. Temperatures on Friday and Saturday are expected to reach into the mid to upper 30s. That's warmer than carvers like but at least far short of last Saturday's near 60-degree mark.


In other words, it could be worse, said Lisa Croteau, the Niles DDA Main Street program manager who has coordinated all nine ice fests.

"Warm weather brings people, and festivals bring people,'' she said, holding true to her matter-of-fact, we'll-cope-with-it attitude.

The good news is, forecasts call for the mercury to take a sharp dive, to a low of 10 degrees on Sunday followed by single digits on Monday. So whatever is left of the sculptures should hang around awhile, giving visitors ample opportunity for viewing.

"Last year, everything melted on Monday,'' Croteau groaned.

As for sculpture designs, at least some are likely to draw attention, given that two of the master carvers -- Rev. Butter (actually, Rolando De La Garza, of Houston) and fellow Texan Buddy "The Viking'' Rasmussen -- just returned from competition in London where they carved out top honors. At 7 p.m. today, they'll stage the first of three free nightly ice fights in the Riverfront Park Amphitheater, and they'll remain afterward tonight at a "meet the carvers'' fundraiser in a tent, complete with an ice bar, outside Massimo's Pizzeria at Main and Front streets.

From 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, ice cream similar to that created by the Hunter Ice and Ice Cream Company, the festival's namesake that once harvested ice on nearby Barron Lake, will go on sale at a booth on the south side of Main Street, between Front and Second streets. A buck will get you a scoop and $10 a quart.

On Saturday, the festival really takes off, with a 9 a.m. Frigid 5K Run getting under way as carvers take cracks at 27 tons of ice blocks. Wine tasting is set for 1 to 3 p.m. at the Massimo tent. Kids might want to gather from noon to 4 p.m. south of the amphitheater where they can race remote-control cars on an ice track. Those who lack cars of their own can take their chances latching onto three on-site cars, although that option comes with a catch.

"It's BYOB: Bring Your Own Batteries,'' Croteau said. "They'll need seven AAs -- five for the car and two for the controller.'' Other games will include Ping-Pong, Foosball and Skee-Ball, all on surfaces fashioned from ice. "It's kind of a carnival theme,'' Croteau said.

Visitors who duck into downtown buildings to warm up will be able to purchase $25 raffle tickets offering the winner a trip for two to the Montreal Ice Hotel or a weekend in Cancun. Either is valued at $1,607.

Sunday's events include a "chili crawl'' from noon to 3 p.m. Tickets costing $5, good for 15 tastes at 10 downtown sites, will be available both at 127 E. Main Street and the Hunter Ice Cream booth. For a complete list of events, visit www.huntericefestival.org.

Staff writer Lou Mumford: lmumford@sbtinfo.com 269-687-3551 ___ (c)2013 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.) Visit the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.) at www.southbendtribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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