MONROE - The downtown will be buzzing with chainsaws and chipping noises this weekend when professional carvers turn blocks of ice into shimmering works of art.
The River Raisin Ice Harvest Festival will open tomorrow at 5 p.m. and continue through Sunday.
The free festival will be held all along the storefronts in downtown Monroe and across the river on Monroe Street.
In last year's inaugural ice harvest festival, more that 55 ice sculptures of various sizes and designs lined the sidewalks of the business district.
Ice sculptures will begin appearing tomorrow evening, and ice carvers will continue sculpting on Saturday.
Demonstrations will be held at 2 p.m. 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the pavilion on Washington at First streets.
John Patterson, president and chief executive officer of the Monroe County Convention and Tourism Bureau, said interest in the festival has grown this year.
"We will have new and more carvings every day. It will be held in the immediate vicinity of the downtown," he said.
Sponsors of the festival, which runs through Sunday, include the city of Monroe, the Downtown Monroe Business Network, and Main Street Monroe/Downtown Development Authority.
"We are expecting a festival that will be three times the size of last year," said Gabe Martin, president of the Downtown Monroe Business Network and the owner of Martin's Shoe House.
Stores, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and individuals have purchased the services of professional ice carvers to create special sculptures.
"We encourage people to bring their cameras and get pictures of the carvings," Mr. Patterson said.
Mr. Martin said store owners have agreed to extend their shopping hours for tomorrow and Saturday, and many of them will be offering bargains.
Also, a chili cook-off among the downtown area restaurants is in the works in which festival-goers will have the opportunity to purchase samples.
The Dorsch Memorial Library will be open and will offer activities, and the Monroe County Historical Museum, which has a number of exhibits in honor of Black History Month, will be open during the day.
Though not in the downtown business district, "The Big Gig!" will be held at the River Raisin Centre for the Arts, 114 South Monroe Rd., as part of the Black History Month Blues Series.
The show, which will be held Saturday, will feature three generations of electric guitar masters: Lonnie Brooks, Michael Powers, and Monroe's own Cetan Clawson.
"There will be lots of things for people to do after the concert," Mr. Patterson said.
Restaurants, pubs, and bars are planning to offer specials and live entertainment throughout the weekend.
Contact Mark Reiter at: