Benjamin Rand Ice Sculptor and Jessica Nunemaker Richmond Indiana

Benjamin Rand ice sculptor and Jessica Nunemaker in Richmond, Indiana for the Richmond Meltdown Festival

The only time you will hear a Hoosier say, “I sure hope it’s cold,” is right before the Richmond Meltdown Festival in downtown Richmond, Indiana. Temperatures hovered over 60* the weekend before and that is not good news for ice. But this time, our Indiana weather cooperated, bringing in plenty of cold, clear days just perfect for a festival that centers around chainsaw ice carving competitions.

It seems there’s an Indiana festival or event for everything: beer, bacon, wine, pork, agriculture, and then some. But I have to say, this is the first time I’ve seen one in Indiana that’s not only in the winter, but that’s centered around carving ice with chainsaws.

The Richmond Meltdown Festival


Richmond, Indiana downtown gleams with amazing ice sculptures, like this huge stegosaurus.

Ice sculptures, like this stegosaurus, are created on the sidewalks themselves in downtown Richmond, Indiana.

Every year gets bigger and better. Word of mouth is a powerful tool and you can bet people will be talking about this one long after the last bit of pyrotechnic display has faded into the night. Oh, yes. There’s more to this festival than the screech of chainsaws and the applause of the crowd. There were bursts of flame that lit up the Richmond Meltdown Throwdown stage. There was loud music. There were food trucks. There were even fireworks.

It’s becoming a pretty big deal. Folks tried to hand us Richmond Meltdown Throwdown banners at several local shops. It’s a competition between four teams of ice carvers trying to get their work done in forty-five minutes. We didn’t know what the banners were for but I had a hunch it would be used for voting. It turns out that I was right.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. That big event is the Richmond Meltdown Throwdown–and it marks the end of the festival. They save the biggest and best for last.

Before the Richmond Meltdown Throwdown

Downtown Richmond, Indiana is full of surprises, much like this playable full-size ping pong table.

Play a game of table tennis on the full-sized table at the Richmond Meltdown Festival.

In the days before the event, the ice carvers get to work adding ice sculptures to the sidewalks of downtown Richmond. They decide what they want to carve and away they go. Right downtown, right on the sidewalk, right in the cold.

These men, so far I have only seen male ice carvers, work fast. It’s nothing for them to finish a 300 lb. ice carving in one hour.

Ice sculpting doesn’t even cover what they do. They are artists in every sense of the word. They start with a block of ice. On their own turf, they make it themselves, circulating air through it to prevent it from clouding over.

Then, they get to work. Each of them had a different process. Some get an idea and sketch it all out beforehand. Then, they use tools to etch the creation into the ice. Depending on how the ice cooperates or how inspiration strikes mid-project, it may or may not completely resemble the original idea. But it will be a 300-pound masterpiece either way.

These ice sculpting artists are part of the team. There’s a general sense of camaraderie, and competition of course, but they know each other. They’ve been competing against each other at competitions around the world, from Alaska to Italy to China to Japan.

I had the chance to speak to quite a few of the ice carvers. You know what I found amazing? Most of them had shared backgrounds–as chefs! See what they had to say about their work and their advice for anyone interested in making their own ice sculptures by watching the videos I’ve included below.

Richmond Meltdown Ice Carvers

The guys involved in the Richmond Meltdown festival have a slew of awards and competition wins behind them.

Master Ice Carver Aaric Kendall, Illinois resident, and owner of Double A Carving:

  • Won the U.S. Ice Carving Nationals, earning the right to compete in ice carving events held in conjunction with two winter Olympics — Turin, Italy, in 2006 and Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2010. He was the Bronze Medalist in Turin and won Gold in Vancouver.
  • He placed 2nd at the World Ice Art Championships in 2015.

Master Ice Carver Andrew Thistlethwaite, Texas resident, and owner of Signature Ice:

  • NICA Professional Division National Champion 2007, 2008
  • 3rd Place 2016 World Ice Art Championships, Fairbanks, Alaska
  • Awarded numerous Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medals in NICA Competitions
  • Certified Ice Carver
  • Ivy Tech Instructor in Ice Carving
  • Founded Hunter Ice Festival in Niles, Michigan

Master Ice Carver Dean DeMarais, Texas resident, Dallas Ice FX:

  • 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008 NICA Competitions Placing in the top 10. Earning 3 Silver Medals and numerous Bronze Medals
  • 2007 2nd Place Abstract Multi Block Team World Ice Art Championships
  • 2013 10th Place Realistic Single Block World Ice Art Championships
  • 2015 2nd Place Realistic Multi Block Team, People’s Choice Award, and Governor’s Award World Ice Art Championships
  • 2016 7th Place Abstract Single Block and People’s Choice Award World Ice Art Championships
  • 2016 3rd Place Realistic Multi Block Team World Ice Art Championships

Master Ice Carver Benjamin Rand, Florida resident, and Styled in Ice carver:

  • USA National and World champion and Cultural Olympic Gold medalist at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.
  • 1st Place Lake Louise Canada
  • 1st place Ottawa Canada
  • 3rd place in Karuizawa Japan
  • 1st Place World Championships Alaska
  • 1st Olympic World Championships Vancouver
  • 1st place USA National Champion

Events Scheduled at the Richmond Meltdown Festival 2017

Richmond Meltdown Festival Photo Booth Fun

Richmond Meltdown Festival photo booth fun

How much fun is this festival? Well, take a look at the events planned for Friday and Saturday. There was plenty to do all around the downtown. Bonus: there are fantastic shops in Richmond, as well as a chocolate shop and a bakery. It’s a win all-around again!

This volunteer-run event is free. There’s no admission to get into the events, not even the Throwdown or the Friday night People’s Champion event.

Friday, January 27, 2017, Events

  • Dean DeMarais carves ice in downtown Richmond, Indiana

    Ice Sculptor Dean DeMarais hard at work during the Richmond Meltdown Festival.

    Ice Carving in the Work Zone at Elstro Plaza
    See and hear carvers taking chainsaws to the ice.

  • Family “Fun”der Zone at Elstro Plaza
    It’s ice, ice glorious ice–but this time, it’s usable. There’s an ice ping-pong table, a slide of ice, a throne, skee ball, mini golf–and then some.
  • Paint and Take Souvenirs at Paint the Towne
    This is a wonderful space to paint a souvenir. We loved the time we spent at Paint the Towne (tip: they host birthdays and wine events too!).
  • Hill’s Pet Zone at Elstro Plaza
    This was a great spot to find a few freebie items for your pet.
  • Warming Stations
    It was easy to pop in and warm up at locations around the city. This time, participants included Ullery’s Homemade Icecream, Morrisson-Reeves Library, Paint the Towne, Veach’s Toy Station, Grassroots Center (who had a fab selfie station as shown above), Mona Lisa Salon, Joann’s Bakery, and the Innovation Center.
  • Food Vendors at Elstro Plaza
    Staying warm isn’t easy but between the food vendors and the warming stations, you’ll be fine. Participants included: Ullery’s Homemade Ice-Cream, Fechers’ Panache, Ma and Pa Kettle Corn, J&J Winery & Cafe andNoble Order Brewing, and more.
  • Frosty MugPub Crawl
    Adults only? This one is for you. They began at New Boswell Brewery (410 North 10th Street), headed to Roscoe’s Coffee Bar and Tap Room, Smiley’s Pub, and finished at J & J Winery for the Meltdown Throwdown at 7:30 PM.
  • Main Event: People’s Champion Throwdown
    This is the big one. It’s the People’s Champion Throwdown. Three 15-minute rounded of ice-carving fun. The winners are audience decided.

Saturday, January 28, 2017, Events

Aaric Kendall ice carver gets to work before the Richmond Meltdown festival.

Ice carver Aaric Kendall etches his design before breaking out the big chainsaw in Richmond, Indiana.

  • Family “Fun”der Zone at Elstro Plaza
    Icy fun for everyone. You know what’s here–just be careful. It is slick.
  • Freeze Your Buns Off Fun Run 7:30 AM
    Now that is creative (and accurate). Walkers and runners were welcome to this one.
  • Frozen Fairy Trail
    Beginning at the Old National Road Welcome Center, kids could create a craft, have a snack, and then get a Frozen Fairy Trail map to see where the other ten stops of fairy fun, surprises, snacks, and workshops can be found.
  • Paint and Take Souvenirs at Paint the Towne
    More paint-your-own creativity with an assortment of paints and ideas to get you started.
  • Hill’s Pet Zone at Elstro Plaza
    Yes, day two of the freebie pet treats and items.
  • Carriage Rides
    Don’t walk, ride from the Depot to Elstro Plaza.
  • Warming Stations
    Warm-up locales again included: Ullery’s Homemade Ice Cream, Morrisson-Reeves Library (hours vary), Paint the Towne, Veach’s Toy Station, Grassroots Center, Mona Lisa Salon, Joann’s Bakery, and the Innovation Center.
  • Food Vendors at Elstro Plaza
    Participants again were: Ullery’s Homemade Ice-Cream, Fechers’ Panache, Ma and Pa Kettle Corn, J&J Winery & Cafe/Noble Order Brewing, and more.
  • Main Event: Mega Meltdown Throwdown at 7:30 PM
    This is the big one. There can be only one winner. Who goes home with the Golden Chainsaw? There’s an element of destruction involved in this one.

You know a winter festival has to be good if it draws people out of their homes and out into the cold. Funny, one weekend before the festival, the temperatures were hitting 60*+. Fortunately, the temperatures cooled considerably.

Last year, the Richmond Meltdown Festival had a thousand people attend. This year had to be even bigger. What will next year bring? Fortunately, you can plan ahead. This time, there was a host hotel that offered special rates to festival attendees. With hotels and area bed and breakfasts, you have options.

Travel for the Richmond Meltdown Festival

Downtown Ice Sculptures, like this horse, are everywhere during the Richmond Meltdown festival.

Jessica Nunemaker Meets Horse at the Richmond Meltdown Festival

Get out of your winter funk. It’s okay to leave your house when it’s cold outside. It’s hard, but it’s okay. You won’t be disappointed. It’s a family-friendly, energetic, and all-around fun festival. Hey, I’m no fan of the cold either so if it gets me outside, you know it has to be a good one!

If you want to see more images of the festival, please take a look at the Little Indiana Instagram account. You’ll discover “as they happen” images you won’t see anywhere else. If you have a related image to share, tag it #LittleIndiana to let everyone get in on the fun.

Follow the Richmond Meltdown Facebook Page or download the Richmond Meltdown App for iOS or Android.

Special thanks to Nancy Sartain and Visit Richmond/Wayne County for hosting our stay, the fine folks at Firehouse BBQ & Blues for the delicious dinner, and Grassroots Action Resource Center for the fun photo booth (and hot chocolate). 

Richmond Meltdown Throwdown at Elstro Plaza
47 North 6th Street
Richmond, IN 47374

I’m Jessica Nunemaker and THIS is Little Indiana.