Richmond Meltdown: A Winter Ice Festival For the Whole Family

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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 Richmond Meltdown is happy to oblige.

The Richmond Meltdown 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 (the company responsible for the Richmond Meltdown) 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 Richmond Meltdown has grown in leaps and bounds. In seven years, Bill and his crew are seeing 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.

Just the interactive play zone-made completely of ice-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 Main Event 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 whether the temperatures are in the negatives or soaring into the forties. Ice of America and the carvers can handle whatever Mother Nature throws at them. They’ve made winter ice festivals work in a variety of temperatures and conditions.


The literal cornucopia of fun that is the Richmond Meltdown has so many events, they can be hard to keep track of. Here’s a handy dandy list.

Public Carving Demonstration 1

Andrew Thistlewaite 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!

Public Carving Demonstration 2

  • Thursday, January 23rd, 2:30 to 3:30, Leland Legacy

Another great carving demonstration outside the Leland. Warm-up inside and watch through the plate glass windows!

Photo Credit: Stephanie Harrison Photography via Ice of America

Chili for Charity

  • Thursday, January 23rd, 5:30-7:00, Morrisson Reeves Library

During this chili cook-off, community organizations share their best chili with the public. For $10 you can have all the chili you can eat. Proceeds go to help fund the Meltdown and local non-profits.

Magical Snowflakes on Main

  • Thursday through Saturday, January 23-25, All day, Main Street Richmond Indiana

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!

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Interactive Play Zone

  • All weekend (starting Friday, January 24th), Jack Elstro Plaza

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

Frosty Mugs Pub Crawl

After stopping at each location, visit Elstro Plaza and receive your free mug!

Bales Fox Fire

  • Friday, January 24th and Saturday, January 25th, 6:00 pm, Jack Elstro Plaza

You know how everyone’s mom tells them not to play with fire? Well, not these folks’ moms. Bales Fox Fire will put on a fire show to heat things up.
Meltdown showdown big event at the Richmond Meltdown Winter Ice Festival
The Main Event

  • Friday and Saturday Night, January 24th & 25th, Elstro Plaza, 7:30 pm, after Bales Fox Fire

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.

Frozen Fairy Trail

Children and the young at heart will enjoy wintery crafts and games at many stops throughout downtown. Get your map at the Wayne County Tourism Bureau and then head downtown to enjoy each spot along the Frozen Fairy trail.

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!

Music All Day Long

Free DIVA Department of Improv Show

Enjoy this free improvisational comedy show featuring some of the funniest people in town. DIVA’s monthly improv shows usually sell out well in advance, be sure to show up early to this free show to secure your seat.

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Who are those future improv stars???

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 Indiana 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.
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