Icy Fun in South Haven: Ice Breaker Festival

| 2/4/2009 4:23:27 PM

Tags: South Haven, winter festival, ice sulpting,

Chainsaws buzz, are you listenin’
In downtown, ice is glistenin’
A beautiful sight,
We’re happy tonight,
Living in a Winter Wonderland.

The buzz of chainsaws first thing in the morning was the greeting visitors had on the streets of South Haven this past weekend. No it’s not our state’s version of that slice ‘n’ dice classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and my apologies to composer Felix Bernard, and recording artists the Andrew Sisters and Perry Como for slaughtering “Winter Wonderland.” But it’s another small town festival!

It was Ice Breaker Weekend here – our town's winter festival. Ice Breaker started, I was once told, as a way for the people in town to venture out from their winter hibernation; it was neighbors reconnecting with neighbors after being shut in their houses during the long winter months. It was a way for the community to give back to its year ‘round residents for having the gall to stick it through the West Michigan winters.

It began with a Euchre tournament (a card game which I’ve found no one west of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon line has heard of), and a few crock pots of chili. Stores offered discounts seemingly as deep as the snow; in a summer tourist town where the population plummets with the temperatures, it was a way for the merchants to say to the residents, “Thanks for your support throughout the year.” Where the chainsaws came in, I’m not exactly sure ... but I suppose being cooped up for so long during the dark and dreary months, one might feel the urge to run through the streets with a chainsaw. (Actually, the saws are used for ice sculpting.)

As word spread, Ice Breaker Weekend grew in popularity, and is now one of South Haven’s biggest events. Town was packed this weekend; I saw cars with license plates from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Quite a turn out by those willing to brave the 30 mph winds we had off the lake on Saturday. The weekend was sunny, but the wind made it seem much colder than the temperature read on the bank’s digital thermometer.

Keith's working on the taxes (shhhh ... best to leave him alone now), and Shelby was already primping seven hours early for one of the festival events – a concert by a few middle school and high school rock bands, most of which include her classmates. So it was just Shannon and I this year; both of us had Christmas gift certificates waiting to be used – hers was for the toy store; mine was for my favorite boutique – and with the half-price sales we had a great time shopping.

cindy murphy
2/10/2009 2:57:07 PM

Don't even mention getting up on the roof, Dave! (shudder!) If I've got one phobia, (there are probably a couple more lurking under the surface), it's a fear of heights. Our roof is a series of high-pitched peaks and valleys; the house actually has four different roof lines. Fearing heights, I NEVER go up there, and cringe everytime Keith does. While he was gutting one of the bedrooms upstairs, I happened to glance out a downstairs window, saw something big fall from the sky and hit the ground. Running outside with the phone in hand, I was ready to call the ambulance for the carpet roll he'd ripped up and thrown out the window. I could have sworn it was him that had fallen two stories through the window. Yes, our town has its share of festivals, as do many of the neighboring communities. Many of the festivals I mentioned in the Blueberry Fest blog take place in the surrounding area. Our town has four festivals: Blueberry Fest, The Harvest Moon Festival, Ice Breaker Weekend, and next up is HarborFest - the kick-off to the summer season. I agree with your friend; blueberries are definitely considered a "super food". Be sure to check out the March/April issue of Grit; it contains an article extolling the benefits of eating, and growing blueberries. (I supposed that could be considered a bit of self-promotion, but I get excited having an article in my favorite magazine). Mulberries are a pain at the nursery were I work; they sprout up everywhere, spread by the birds, and are impossible to keep out of pots once they take root. My daughters love the berries, and go around the corner with the neighbor kids to pick them, always returning with stained fingers and faces. Don't get me started on elderberries; it's one of my favorite native American plants. I could go on and on about it. Maybe, one day I will.

nebraska dave
2/10/2009 8:51:26 AM

I watched the video about motorcycle ice racing. Not something I would want to do that's for sure. I'd rather spend my time working on a good project. I suppose people would consider laying on a roof in the prone position head facing down over the edge fixing a gutter not excatly the safest thing to do, but hey I din't have a ladder tall enough to reach the gutter. So I figure I can't really say too much about racing studded tired motorcycles on ice when I do equally dangerous things in a different way. Cindy, you mentioned another festival about blueberrys back in late fall. I just finished reading the post and comments. In that post you mentioned many other festivals. I gather that South Haven loves to have a good festival for just about anything. It must be fun to live in a town filled with festivities. I have been informed by a friend here that blueberries are one of the top ten super foods. A mere half cup a day will keep the immune system in tip top shape. It sounds as though the soil and weather conditions are perfect there to grow blueberries. Here in Nebraska the conditions are perfect to grow Mulberry trees. I love a good Mulberry but it's almost a nuisance. They sprout up volunteer everywhere. Every fence row, yard, or wooded area are filled with Mulberry trees. There's no need to really plant one intentionally. The other berry that grows here naturally is what's called an elder berry. It matures late in the fall on a bush type plant. Many plants are found along old railroad beds. Both of these berries make awesome jelly and I expect wine. I did attempt to make jelly out of the elder berries one year. My wife and kids thought it was the best pancake syrup ever. Ah, well, I really haven't tried to make jelly again. The neighbor and I did make some pretty awesome wine out of the Mulberries. We made it at his house. It must have been good because by the time I was informed that the wine was done fer

cindy murphy
2/9/2009 7:02:32 AM

Watching the races definitely was cringe-worthy, Dave. To tell the truth, I hated it, and I only went to watch a couple of times. I was not only squeamish about being out on the ice with all the vehicles and spectators, (everyone drove out on the ice), but I used to grit my teeth, hoping none of the participants would skid out of control, perhaps taking down the whole field of racers with them. Check out this video I found on YouTube of ice bike racing if you get a chance. It's not my brother, but it produces exactly the cringe-worthy viewing effect I'm talking about, (thankfully, there are no wipe-outs in the video). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf7T4mAHPVQ&feature=related I'm relieved to say that Bro gave up ice racing nearly two decades ago, when he was in his early twenties. His man-toys have dwindled over the years, but he still keeps a dirt bike. While visiting over Christmas this year, I noticed in the garage next to his bike, was a smaller version - the one his eight year-old daughter rides. Thankfully, neither bike was equipped with steel-studded tires.

nebraska dave
2/8/2009 6:42:03 PM

Whoa, now that is extreme. That is way over the top. What does brother do for excitement today? The snowmobile on cornstalks was exciting enough for me but racing motorcycles on ice with studs in the tires is way out of my league. That would even give me the willys to watch.

cindy murphy
2/6/2009 10:30:34 AM

A life-sized cow sculpted out of butter - how udderly cool! It must be a moooooving experience to watch the woman create it....but enclosed in that refrigerated work area, she must freeze her diaryarre off. Ok...I butter quit with the bad puns before they kick me out of here. I've never had a barbecued pork chop on a stick, but I have had "city-chicken" on a stick, which is not chicken, but pork, the other white meat. Oh! that oh-so-good, but oh-so-bad for you festival and fair food! You can almost hear your arteries clogging while you're eating it, but you just can't help yourself. I don't think I've ever eaten any type of fair food that is good for you....except at Blueberry Fest; there is little food I enjoy more than fresh blueberries in season, and so healthy for you too! Of course, like Ice Breaker, I had to blog about Blueberry Fest too back in late summer...because if Ice Breaker Weekend is a big event here in South Haven, Blueberry Fest is colossal!

nebraska dave
2/6/2009 7:28:37 AM

Cindy, I'm still amazed at the ice sculptures. The only festival that I attend regularly is the Iowa State Fair. Yes, I know I'm a traitor for not going to the Nebraska State Fair, but Nebraska State Fair is really bad and hardly draws enough people to keep it open. Iowa on the other hand has either the second or third best State Fair in the nation. Last year they set a Genius World Record by having 12,000 people eat a corn dog at the same time. My friend and I wanted to be a part of the record, but they had such a response that all the dogs were gone by the time we got there. The reason I bring the festival up is that for decades a lady sculptor has sculpted a full size cow out of real butter. It's called the butter cow display and is quite famous in these here parts. It takes her about two or three days and for the first days of the fair people can actually see her sculpting away. I guess that got too boring so a few years ago she started sculpting the cow plus something else. Last year it was a full size Batman and Robin. The whole work area and display is a glass enclosed refrigerated area. It's quite amusing to me to see someone sculpting away with Winter clothes on and puffs of breath being exhaled all the while those watching are sweltering in 90 plus degree temperatures. Another thing that's quite humorous at the fair is everything from deep fried bananas to salad can be bought on a stick. You ever try eating a barbecued pork chop on a stick? Of course nothing is good for you, but all things are good for the day. I always go with camera in one hand and a bottle of antacid in the other.

cindy murphy
2/5/2009 4:43:18 PM

I'm the same way, Lori; I can't take the cold as well as I could when I was younger. Gosh, remember as kids, you could stay out forever playing in the snow, until you were called inside because your parents were afraid your toes and fingers were going to fall off? Sheesh, now I wear two pairs of socks and long johns, (my friend calls them Mary Janes; I think that's cute), since early November - even inside the house. The cold doesn't keep me inside though; with me it's an acclimation thing - the more I'm outside, the less the cold temperatures bother me. The nursery is closed from mid-November to whenever the weather breaks - usually sometime in March. It's weird not seeing the people I work with so closely for those winter months. One way some of us stay connected is with weekly chats over coffee at the local bakery. In addition, this year my boss and sometimes another co-worker have made it a point to get together once a week to walk a couple of miles, no matter the weather. We've trekked knee-deep in snow through the nature preserve and on the trails at the nursery, through a cemetary, down country roads, and over farmland, yakking the entire way. It's a great way to keep up-to-date with what's going on in each other's lives, and get exercise at the same time.

cindy murphy
2/5/2009 4:22:29 PM

Yeah, Dave...I've done the same thing a lot of times - written a comment longer than the word limit, and have been cut off. I'm not sure how many words, (or characters?), are allowed. The snow-shoeing excursion was great fun! The kids saw rabbit, fox, mice, and deer tracks, along with a depression where a deer had spent the night. A downy woodpecker was drilling so loud, he could even be heard over the din of twenty excited 7 year olds. I impressed the kids with some of my knowledge of bizarre plant lore - the more the bizarre the better as far as kids are concerned. The guide told corny jokes which impressed them too. My corny jokes went understood by most....except by my daughter, who is subjected to my weird sense of humor on a daily basis. And there were extra snow-shoes, so the volunteers were able to use them too, instead of just walk alongside as in past years. No domino effect pile ups either. Very little falling this time around; I think the kids have finally gotten the hang of it, (and it only took them three years to do so). Hope your daughter's move goes just as smoothly, (without any domino effect pile ups either).

2/5/2009 3:35:38 PM

Hi Cindy! Your ice festival sounds like great fun! I think ice sculpting is amazing! We don't really have anything like your festival around here. I have a girlfriend that helps me get through the winter months, and of coarse we always try to get together with friends on the weekends for some fun. When I was a kid, I didn't mind the cold temps as much as I do now. There is a small pond just up the road from where I grew up. As soon as the ice would freeze, my brother and I and the neighbor kids would ice skate almost every day. We did a lot of sled riding too. Now I don't even own a pair of skates. We still get a big group together on occasion after a good snow and make a huge sledriding trail. Always a lot of fun, and I'm usually so bundled that there is no chance of me getting hurt!

nebraska dave
2/5/2009 2:19:44 PM

Cindy, Yes, I double commented a couple times. The first was when I encountered the error message and resent the comment only to find that it was already on the comment section. On Lori's blog, the comment was cut off and didn't post the complete comment. So I tried to send it again with the same result. I'm not sure what the limit for comments are and really can't find a way to contact the webmaster to find out. I hope you enjoy your snow shoe excursion with the class. Me I'm off to help move my daughter into her new apartment. It could be another extreme sport event. :)

cindy murphy
2/5/2009 12:07:36 PM

Hey, Dave. Thanks for stopping by here, and taking the time to leave a comment. I've really enjoyed reading your posts on the forums, and here in the blog section the last couple of days, (I just read your rabbit comment to Lori). Your snowmobile/tobbogan adventure reminded me of another Extreme Farm Sport we used to do: The Annual Snowmobile Races through the corn fields.....held in autumn, long before the first snowflake of the year even thought about falling from the sky. I'll have to post the particulars later; I need to be running off here in a few minutes for Today's Winter Fun Activity: Snow-shoeing With Second Graders. Mind if I offer a blog comment-posting tip before I go? I noticed here and on Lori's blog, your comments double-posted. Make your comment. Wait for it...then wait a minute longer. Get the error page. Then go back to the "Grit Blogs" link at the top of the page, and you should see your comment posted. At least that's how it works on my computer - it takes a minute or two after I've hit "Submit" before it actually takes, and then I always get the error message. Of course, this could be because I'm working on a computer older than dirt.

nebraska dave
2/4/2009 7:29:59 PM

Cindy, Sounds like the South Haven festival is quite a Winter time event to enjoy. Here in Nebraska our festivals are all in the Fall and Spring. Not so much in the Winter. Everyone holes up until the weather breaks in the Spring time. Then the Sports shows, garden shows, and flower shows begin to get our juices flowing. Central and Western Nebraska the residents are a little more bold and break out the snowmobiles for fun. My Uncle wore out a tobbogan towing us kids behind the snowmobile. It's really cool going 20 to 25 MPG on a tobbogan with about three other kids. The corners are real exciting at that speed because the tobbogan swings way out the length of the tow rope which increases the speed. However the snowmobile driver has to make sure he dodges the gopher mounds as it's never a good thing to leave the ground on a tobbogan. Many travel to Colorado mountains for skiing, but no real events here like you describe. I have heard of the card game echure but here in Nebraska the games of choice are either pitch or hearts. Many local small town pubs are frequented by farmers in the off season of winter. They gather to talk about the harvest, how bad the weather is, play some cards or pool, and gather up strength for the spring time flurry of planting. There's no real big lakes in Nebraska. Just farm ponds where the catch would be Bass or Crappie and maybe a catfish or two. Some folks like those from Michigan seem to have fun with all the seasons.

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