ITHACA, N.Y. – Whether your idea of winter weekend fun includes taking in public art, filling up on comfort food, or warming up with craft brews, the 12th Annual Downtown Ithaca Ice Fest has something for you.

Fanning out around the Ithaca Commons from the centerpiece Ice Bar, the festival will bring ice sculptors, performers, chowder vendors and even a dog sled team. The mercury is not expected to top 32 degrees this weekend – perfect conditions for the more than 15 tons of ice that will be trucked into Ithaca from the East Syracuse Ice Farm where owner Stan Kolonko produces crystal-clear blocks for sculpting.

Related: Ice farmer harvests 35,000 pounds of ice for Ithaca’s 11th annual Ice Festival

At Thursday’s opening festivities, DJ ha-Meen piped tunes into the headphones of dancers at a Silent Disco while bartenders served up Bacchus beer, Treleaven wine and hot cocoa from behind their frozen counter.

The 2018 Ice Bar was carved Thursday and will serve beer, wine and cocoa. (File photo of the 2016 Ice Bar)

Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8 will feature the weekend’s main events: two rounds of cutthroat ice carving competition and the heated Chowder Cook-off.

From 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, sculptors from far and wide will vie for Ice Fest glory in the “speed carving competition.” The single-elimination showdown will give each competitor just 20 minutes to transform a block of ice into a masterpiece.

Saturday will test the carvers’ finesse and stamina, with an all-day, two-block carving challenge. Participants will start to chip away at their blocks at 9 a.m., before a panel of judges announces winners on the Bernie Milton Pavilion at 5 p.m. Past years have seen winning designs ranging from angels to pelicans, so it’s anyone’s guess what showstoppers carvers will come up with this time around.

Related: Top 3 ice carvers from the 11th annual Ithaca Ice festival announced

While carvers are hard at work, festival-goers can warm up at the Ice Bar from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday or can explore a range of food and entertainment options.

More than 20 chowders will be in the running for the title of Chowder Cup Champion at the 9th Annual Chowder Cook-off. Samples of local restaurants’ and businesses’ entries will be available from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday around the Commons and surrounding streets. Tickets will be on sale at the Downtown Visitor Center and the Main Ticket/Info Booth on the Commons.

Chowder samples will be available throughout downtown from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. (Downtown Ithaca Alliance)

For a sweeter treat, folks can head into Center Ithaca to choose from more than 100 types of treats at the Habitat for Humanity Cookie Walk. The pop-up bakery, open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, will benefit the organization’s mission to build affordable homes.

Carolers, a theatre troupe, and Hanukkah Celebration will bring holiday cheer throughout Saturday on the Commons, and the Snow-Mane Sled Dog Team will be on hand for meet and greets from 2 to 4 p.m.

We’ll be posting photos and videos throughout the weekend. Share yours with us on social media!

Featured image provided.

Devon Magliozzi is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at or 607-391-0328.