Icy Fun in South Haven: Ice Breaker Festival

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

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.

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