Breaking the ice

By Annie Stodola

This weekend, downtown Rochester will be filled with ice sculptures and dog sleds.

The annual Fire and Ice Fest runs Friday, Jan. 28 through Sunday, Jan. 30. In its fourth year, the festival offers outdoor winter activities, as well as promotions from local stores and restaurants.

One of the largest draws for the festival patrons are the ice sculptures, which are displayed in front of each store. Each year, the festival’s sculptures are sponsored by local businesses and follow a particular theme. In honor of this year’s theme, “Toys R Ice,” sculptures will be carved to resemble well-known types of toys.

Other winter activities offered during the festival include ice sculpting demonstrations, dogsled rides, an ice skating rink, snow shoeing, broomball and a tube sledding hill on Third Street. To participate in ice skating or broomball, residents should bring their own skates.

Stacey Keast, Rochester Downtown Development Authority events coordinator, said that the tubing hill has been especially successful in recent years.

“Tubing is a huge hit and it’s especially nice for residents on campus to be able to come and do,” Keast said. “It’s a free event and it just requires people to get in line. They don’t need equipment.”

Derenda Howard, Oakland County recreation supervisor for outdoor recreation and parks, said the outdoor events are popular, especially with college students.

“The dogsledder rides and demos, the snow shoeing and cross country skiing, the tubing hill — everything is free except for some costs associated with the Tastefest,” Howard said. “All of the activities are free, though, so it’s an affordable event.”

Comprising the other half of the festival is the fireworks show, which takes place at 8 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. The “Big Bright Lights Show,” or the holiday lights that cover each building on Main Street during the month of December, will be back from 6 p.m. to midnight each night of the festival as well.

At the fest, patrons can pick up a “Sweet Discounts” card at any participating business, as designated by a sign in the storefront window. The cards are good for 15 percent discounts at the businesses’ discretion throughout the month of February.

During Friday and Saturday, a Tastefest and beer tent will be located near Rochester Mills. The tent will have a variety of signature dishes from area restaurants for patrons to purchase. On Sunday, the Tastefest tent will become the home of the Soup Off, a new event which will involve local restaurants competing against each other for the title of Best Soup. Festival patrons can purchase samples of the soup during the voting process and larger quantities after voting has concluded. The Soup Off will help fund next year’s fest.

Other new events at this year’s fest include cross country skiing and a figure skating exhibition on Sunday.

Howard expects a large turnout this weekend, largely due to the uniqueness of the events offered during the Festival.

“Rochester in particular is such an active community and people there tend to come out for events like this,” Howard said. “You get to see people you don’t see all the time and do activities you don’t do all the time, especially in a downtown area. It’s not every day you go tubing down a street downtown.”

Organizers for the festival are still looking for volunteers to work in three hour shifts each day of the festival. To volunteer, contact Rachel Boyd at 248-975-9717.

Fire and Ice Festival hours are 6–9 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit

“It just comes down to people getting a little stir crazy by the end of January,” Keast said. “This lets people get out and get active during the winter.”