ITHACA, N.Y. – As Ithacans prepare for the 11th annual Ice Festival and Chowder Cook-Off this weekend, ice carvers were found on the Commons just before noon on Thursday preparing the centerpieces for the festival.
Stan Kolonko, the owner of The Ice Farm, said he prepared approximately 35,000 pounds of ice to get ready for the festival. As lunchtime approached, flakes of ice flew through the air, resembling snowflakes, as Kolonko and two associates shaved the blocks of ice down into formations.
Kolonko said his business, located in East Syracuse, was started in 2006 while he was living on a farm there.
“I was trying to come up with the name while living on the farm at the time,” Kolonko said. “We started making the ice there, and we call the process seeding, growing and harvesting the ice, so I decided to keep the name and call it The Ice Farm.”
Kolonko said he learned to carve ice while in culinary school, and eventually began a business with the skill which would eventually serve year-round events.
“We make sculptures all year-round for weddings, parties, and pretty much anything from sorority and fraternity parties to baby showers,” he said.
The process, which Kolonko describes as ‘seeding, growing and harvesting,’ is fairly simple, he says. The process of making the product, which takes approximately three days, results in a solid and almost see-through block of ice without any noticeable imperfections or cracks – it appears to look like glass.
“We have specialized machines that have ice cans inside shaped like the blocks,” Kolonko said. “We put purified water in to start and the refrigeration starts from the bottom. Once it starts, once you see the ice beginning to form, we call that the seed, then we turn a circulating pump on and it grows for three days. Once it’s finished growing, we take it out, trim it, and that’s called the harvest. Then we box it and we’re ready to go.”
The ice bar, which Kolonko was working on, serves as the center point of the festival and will offer hot cocoa, beer from Baccus Brewing Co. and wine from Treleaven Winery to people mingling through the festival. Kolonko said they would also be working on carving out ice chairs, thrones, and snowmen throughout the day. Carvers have also constructed a surprise sculpture, set to be displayed on the Commons between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Thursday evening.
Tomorrow, Kolonko said more ice will be delivered for competitors in the speed carving competition. The competition is set to kick off at 5 p.m. where competitors work in pairs for 20 minutes on one block of ice. The crowd then votes to see which sculpture wins, and is continued until one winner is narrowed down.
While past years have proven slightly too warm for the survival of the ice sculptures, Kolonko said this year is looking hopeful in terms of weather.
“It will be cold enough tonight that the blocks will not melt – it’s certainly going to melt a little tomorrow, but Saturday we should be good for the competition,” he said. “It’s supposed to be a little warm, so it may melt some, but it is what it is – at least it’s not raining and it’s not 60 degrees.”