BELFAST, Maine — Saturday's below-freezing temperatures made for the perfect conditions for the 2nd Annual Belfast Ice Festival. Organized by the non-profit Our Town Belfast, the downtown area is filled with 18 ice sculptures and four cocktail bars made entirely from ice.
Saturday was just the first day of the event. There will be activities for kids all day Sunday and the ice sculptures and cocktail bars will remain in the city's downtown area too.
This year's event also included the first 'State of Maine Ice Carving Championship'. Five teams of carvers created their own ice sculptures to be judged by professionals. Along with bragging rights, the winners received a poster documenting their success.
There are also a number of activities for people of all ages. Zach Schmesser, the executive director of Our Town Belfast, said the event is intended to lure people back into the city during the cold winter months.
"This weekend traditionally has been the slowest weekend in Belfast," Schmesser said.
Schmesser said they had 54 ice blocks this year, each weighing 300-pounds. In total, those blocks equal more than 60,000-pounds of ice.
Jesse Bouchard is one of three skilled ice sculptors, who helped created 18 sculptures throughout town. Bouchard said he first started carving ice when he was 18-years-old. He said his son, Maxim, has helped him the last few days lifting the 300-pound ice blocks around. Bouchard's favorite part of ice sculpting is what's called fusion.
"It's the process in which you stick two pieces of ice together. One piece of ice has to be perfectly flat, we use aluminum and heat it to make a flat surface," Bouchard said.
The sculptures even attracted those who are more used to the heat than the ice. Veronica and Todd Sazera moved to Belfast from Fort Lauderdale, FL in November. They are the newest owners of Vinolio, a store that offers a variety of olive oil, vinegar, and wine, on Main Street. They decided to move to Maine when their daughter moved to Boston for college.
"We're smitten with Belfast, Maine we love it so much," Veronica said.
Veronica added she's amazed to see all the people out and about even on a cold day like Saturday.
"Winter is a place where some people go and just hibernate, but then to have a day like today and have these ice sculptures where the people are incredibly talented, you can't believe it..." Veronica said.
This event serves as a nice reminder that although the winter months can seem long, they can still be fun.