Bringing ice to life

The Fete de Glace St. Charles Ice Festival marks its 22nd year in historic downtown St. Charles

By Brett Auten

It is considered the crown jewel, albeit one that can soon dissipate.

The Fete de Glace St. Charles Ice Festival will mark its 22nd year in historic downtown St. Charles on Jan. 25. Annually, a large crowd gathers between the 100 and 200 blocks of North Main Street to watch professional ice carvers bring massive blocks of ice to life in a friendly competition. Armed with electric chainsaws, grinders, sanders, chisels, and hand saws, carvers draw oohs and ahhs aplenty with their amazing, but ephemeral, creations.

For the competitors, the festival is special not only for its longevity but also for the encouragement to be as creative as possible. Intricate downhill snow skiers, a nine-foot tiger balancing on a ball, and the famous St. Louis Rally Squirrel have been about the tawdry of creations.

Each carver starts with a single block of ice weighing 260 lbs. and dissects it and reassembles it into wondrous sparkling creations.

”This is the only real outdoor ice carving competition in the area that is art-related,” Penny Pitman, the co-chairperson of the Fete de Glace, said. “You will see the finest ice carvers working to create amazing sculptures. It is hard to believe that their creations came out of a solid block of ice.”

Joe Modica has done the competition every year since its inception.

“I like to compete and see what everybody else is doing,” Modica said. “As a carver, it is unique in that you are free to do whatever you want as long as you can do it.”

The first Fete de Glace was in 1998 and the festival was put in place in part to help bring people back down to the Main Street area after the Christmas holiday and is an ideal family activity with outdoor fire pits and restaurants bustling to help keep the bystanders warm and cozy.

Team competition (two-person teams using five, 250-pound blocks of ice) takes place in the morning from 9:30 am until noon. The afternoon portion picks up at 1 p.m. and runs until 3:30 pm with the individual competition (each artist competes using a single block of ice).

The Fete de Glace has a unique component in that both the team and individual contests will be judged by the crowd. Ballots may be picked up at the information booth located at the center of the festival. Both adults and children vote for their favorite sculptures and all awards will be given out around 4 p.m.  Cash and trophies will be handed out to first and second place winners in the Team Division and first, second, and third in the individual competition.

The festival is presented by the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau along with the Historic Downtown Association of St. Charles with support from the Special Business District of St. Charles and the Arts and Cultures Commission of St. Charles. For more information, visit the Fete de Glace St. Charles Ice Festival Facebook page.

Photo provided
The Fete de Glace St. Charles Ice Festival will be held on Jan. 25 from 9 am to 3:30 pm between the 100 and 200 blocks of North Main Street in downtown St. Charles.