Richmond Meltdown: A Winter Ice Festival For the Whole Family

There are so many fun community activities planned throughout the fall and holiday seasons. After New Year’s, it’s… crickets. The days are short and cold. Everyone is sick of being stuck in the house and I’m sick of thinking of ways to entertain them. Nothing needs a winter festival more than late January and the Meltdown is happy to oblige.

The Richmond Meltdown Winter Ice Festival is a free, one-of-a-kind festival that the whole family will enjoy. For one week, world-renown ice carvers will come to Richmond, Indiana to make beautiful works of art from massive blocks of ice.

I interviewed Bill Thistlewaite, founder of Ice of America to discuss the activities, carvers, and unique appeal of a winter ice festival.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Harrison Photography via Ice of America

The Richmond Meltdown Festival

A Family Affair

The Meltdown Winter Ice Festival has grown in leaps and bounds. Since its inception, Bill and his crew have seen attendees come from further away. “About a 75-mile radius,” he reported, “people are coming from Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Dayton, Kokomo. We’re seeing a lot more come from Ohio and even Chicago.” And folks are attending in carloads as they’re bringing the whole family.

The interactive play zone (think of a playground made completely of ice) alone is worth loading the kids in the car. A couple of years ago, as a lark, one of the carvers made a ping-pong table out of ice. “People just went crazy over that ping pong table,” Bill marveled. One ping pong table has morphed into an entire zone of tic tac toe boards, Plinko, a slide, Skee-Ball, checkerboards, and more. This area is enjoyed by literally everyone: toddlers and preschoolers playing simple games, tweens/teens sliding and taking selfies, adults playing checkers, and everyone doing everything in between.

Super Fun Shows

The public carving demonstrations and Meltdown Throwdown are highlights of the Richmond Meltdown. Have you ever seen art made with a chainsaw? It’s as cool as it sounds.

And these guys are artists. Internationally known artists. The ice carving world is small and competitive. Every carver working the Richmond Meltdown has finished in at least third place at international competitions. Two are world champions. These carvers are at the top of their game. And, fun fact: these guys are as good chefs as they are carvers. Most of them learned to carve ice in culinary school.

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Photo Credit: Stephanie Harrison Photography via Ice of America

Don’t Worry About the Weather

I mean, dress appropriately. But don’t worry if the temperatures are in the negatives or soaring into the forties. The ice carvers can handle whatever Mother Nature throws at them. They’ve made winter ice festivals work in a variety of temperatures and conditions.

Meltdown Events

The cornucopia of fun that is the Richmond Meltdown has so many events that they can be hard to keep track of. The Meltdown website keeps an up to date listing of the events and attractions, so be sure to check that out for exact dates and times.

Below are some of the must-see events at the Meltdown every year.

Public Carving Demonstrations

One of the ice carvers will give a live ice carving demonstration. You and your kids can get up close and watch how he transforms a solid block of ice into a creative piece of art. Bonus: there will be a hot chocolate bar where you can make your own delicious drink!

Photo Credit: Stephanie Harrison Photography via Ice of America

Magical Snowflakes on Main

Large snowflakes will be placed lining Main Street with positive, uplifting quotes. Each snowflake contains a code word that when combine reveal a secret message. Turn in the secret message at the Wayne County Welcome Center for a special prize!

Interactive Play Zone

Don’t miss taking a selfie on the ice throne. Games like Skee-Ball and ping pong will be made (nearly) entirely of ice. The park will also be full of the ice sculptures the carvers have been working on all week.

Photo Credit: Ice of America

The Meltdown Showdown

Meltdown showdown big event at the Richmond Meltdown Winter Ice Festival

This is the event you don’t want to miss! Jack Elstro Plaza will be full of cheering as hundreds of people gather to watch. Two teams of ice carvers create an enormous ice masterpiece-all to be called champion. The audience decides who the ultimate winner will be.

Hayes Hike & Hot Chocolate

Explore nature through miles of hiking trail and a driving tour. Keep toasty with free hot chocolate in the nature center!

Wrap Up

I can’t wait to see you at the Richmond Meltdown. It’s going to be so fun, walking around all bundled up, playing games on huge ice contraptions, ducking out of the cold into whimsical shops and diverse eateries.

Coming from out of town? Check out Visit Richmond for details on places to stay, food to eat, and other fun things to do in the area!

Happy winter enjoyment!


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Megan writes everything on Ish Mom. She possesses a bachelor's degree in psychology, a flair for theatrics, and a whole lotta nerve. She lives in the Midwest (and loves it) with her wonderful husband and three young boys.

2 Responses

    1. Ray,

      Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve updated the article to the correct day.

      I’m so sorry, and feel free to call me Megan 🙂

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