South Haven is reignited the first weekend of February during the annual Ice Breaker festival. This year will be Ice Breaker’s 26th year, with traditions that have grown and entertained thousands of visitors and have kept them coming back for more. The weekend’s Michigan ice festival is filled with unique activities that are sure to prove the winter can be just as fun as the summer. Shops and restaurants open their doors to the many visitors who line the streets, bundled and ready to partake in the annual winter fun. Refer to this guide to find out more about what exactly there is to do during this hot, winter festival.
The South Haven Ice Rink is conveniently located downtown under the cover of a pavilion
Getting Around the Festival
Before I get into the details of the events, it’s important to cover how everyone can to get around to the different locations of the activities. Make sure to stop by the Visitors Bureau or the Chemical Bank to pick up an event brochure, produced by the Chamber of Commerce (and an event sweatshirt, long sleeve t-shirt, or handwarmers if you’re interested). The brochures are your roadmaps to Ice Breaker fun! They will provide you with a map and detailed list of the events occurring over the weekend. You can also access these through the Chamber's website. There will be a shuttle service on Saturday, which will be running a continuous loop from noon until 10pm to a few places that will host chili cook off participants. The brochure will also cover the details of this route.
Start off your Ice Breaker experience after the work day is over at the Moose Lodge for a fish fry from 5pm-7pm, or strap on ice skates at the South Haven Ice Rink’s glow skate party from 5pm-9pm. Get your animal fix, drink specials, and maybe even acquire a new fur family member at the South Haven Brew Pub from 6pm to midnight. Proceeds will go towards the Al-Van Humane Society, a no-kill shelter. As you’re enjoying your food and beverages, the ever-entertaining snowsuit fashion contest will be underway at 7pm. Prizes will be given for the “most fun, funky and functional winter wear.” Join in on the fun or watch while sipping a quality beer. Speaking of animals, Our Town Players will be presenting a play all weekend long called “Dr. Evil and the Basket of Kittens.” Friday and Saturday night shows begin at 7:30pm. During all of this fun, the Pub Slide will be taking place at ten different locations. Captain Lou’s and Admiral Jack’s are opening specially for this winter carnival weekend only (until the summer season, of course) so make sure to get your riverside bar experiences in while you can!
Strut your stuff at the snowsuit fashion contest!
The chainsaws will be out at a ripe 7am carving all of the ice blocks. Bundle up, grab a coffee, and head on out to observe the artists making ice carving look easy. Judging of the ice sculptures doesn’t start until 1pm so don’t feel like you have to be up before the rooster crows. If you do get outside early though, check out the Relay for Life rummage sale at City Hall. This is only from 8am-12pm so if you want to make a claim on some neat items, make sure to check it all out. If that coffee and fresh morning air is inspiring to you, like you’re ready to be even more active, then head over to the Black River Tavern from 8am-9:45am and register for the Break the Ice 5K Run/Walk. Runners and walkers will be taking off at 10am. Or, alternatively, chase your Olympics-inspired dreams at the Ice Rink from 9am to 12pm where a learn to curl session will be taking place for just $15. For kids 10 and under there will be a Frosty Dash Kids Run at 11am at the South Side Marina.
Want more kid-tastic fun? We’ve got crafts, cookies, and games galore during the ice festival! From 10am-11am, the South Haven Memorial Library is providing crafts, games, and stories for Pre-K children and older. The First United Methodist Church is hosting cookie decorating, games, and crafts from 11am to 12pm. Stop in at the Living Room Cafe to take some photos in the photo booth from 11am-2pm, then head to the South Haven Center for the Arts for make and take watercolors on ice and light catchers from 1pm-3pm. Your young ones will have plenty of activities to partake in.
This takes us to the lunch hour. It’s food time!
From 11am-4pm, Boy Scout Troop #198 will be hosting a S’more Roasting Fundraiser near Clementines, near the corner of Phoenix and Center Streets. Before you grab your S’more dessert (or after, we have no rules against that), from noon to 3pm, head out to the different locations for the chili cook off and try out all the delicious samples! Refer to your brochure for details on where to go. The chili samples are free and you get to vote on your favorite sample. You don’t want to miss out on all the great recipes. Props to those who make it to all twenty-eight chili tasting locations during the ice fest!
Free chili tasting at the twenty-eight locations of the chili cook off!
The Saturday afternoon events are sure to please. For everyone who loves a good ride around the town, there will be horse-drawn wagon rides from noon to 4pm. It’s nice to sit down for awhile and relax, while not having to be behind the wheel. For the gamers and Smash Brothers fans out there, Hideaway Gaming is having a Super Smash Brothers Ultimate Tournament from 1pm to 6pm, with a $5 entry fee. Join in on the fun against other fellow Smashers. At 2pm, we all want to see who can fling a frozen fish the farthest distance! Adults can test their strength for $5 and kids can toss their fish for $1. This is another activity that you can mark off your bucket list during the ice festival. The cardboard sled race will be happening shortly after the fish fling at 3:30pm and the awards will directly follow, along with the chili cook off and ice carving winners as well. Don’t forget the “Dr. Evil and the Basket of Kittens” play at 7:30pm if you missed it on Friday, and the glow stick party at the Ice Rink is happening again if you missed out or just couldn’t get enough. Also remember that the pub slide is still going on all throughout Saturday.
Always good laughs and cool designs at the cardboard sled race
It’s not just your average Sunday, it’s SUPERBOWL Sunday! Conveniently, the participating restaurants and bars will be continuing their pub slide deals for “America’s holiday.” Don your favorite team’s gear, grab some food and drinks, and enjoy the game and its commercials. If you missed your chance to see “Dr. Evil and the Basket of Kittens,” catch the Sunday matinee at 3pm. Don’t worry, you won’t miss any football action during the show.
At this point we have reached the end of the Ice Breaker festival. It’s a great experience because the festival provides visitors and locals with a chance for a break from the winter blues. We all gather to share in some wintertime fun, while keeping warm with good food and drinks. The indoor and outdoor activities are sure to entertain. I know many of us can’t wait to bask in the sunlight of summer on Lake Michigan’s sugar-sand beaches, but Ice Breaker shows us how winter doesn’t have to be so much of a drag with a gathered community, good laughs, and some warm chili!
About the Author
Amanda Owens is a resident of South Haven, MI and is the Guest Services and Social Media Coordinator for the South Haven Convention and Visitors Bureau. She is a recent graduate of Western Michigan University and is delighted to help visitors with their trips to the beautiful city of South Haven.