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‘Giant street party’: Dartmouth hosts artists in ice sculpting festival

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The biggest ice carving event in Atlantic Canada is taking place in Dartmouth on Saturday. Visitors can see sculptures take shape right before their eyes.

Tim Rissesco, CEO of the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission, described the Ice Festival as a “giant street party.”

Eight carvers carving over 40 ice sculptures could be seen Saturday along the Dartmouth waterfront, Portland and Ochterloney Streets and King’s Wharf.

“We have street curling and later tonight we’re gonna have music all over town as well. It’s a perfect day to come out and wander the streets,” Rissesco said.

He’s expecting to spend about 10 to 12 hours carving in total this weekend, and says the weather has been just right.

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➡️Swipe for the Ice Festival Stages Map.

DON’T FORGET to drop into the incredible downtown businesses, many of whom have special deals or offerings for the Ice Festival

— Downtown Dartmouth (@DT_Dartmouth) January 27, 2023

Carvers come from all over the Maritimes and come from three different disciplines. Some are artists, some are from the culinary world, and one is a chainsaw carver, Rissesco said.

He said Dartmouth used to have an annual winter carnival decades ago, with horse races, ice-skating and other events. But since winters have become warmer, it hasn’t been able to happen again.

The ice festival is an ode to the carnival that once was.

“I think for a lot of people, that’s very nostalgic. And we’re making the best of the winter we have.”

Artist Claude Roussel is participating in the Ice Festival for the second year in a row.

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“It’s who I am. I like being able to carve, to express myself,” he said. “I also like meeting people and talking to people, I like the social aspect of it.”

His friend — and well-known drum dancer — Mathew Nuqingaq, was supposed be at the festival with him, but couldn’t make it because of flight cancellations.

In a show of respect to Nuqingaq, carver Roussel created a drum dancer for one of his ice sculptures.

“As I’m carving it I’m thinking of different times, different experiences we’ve had… I’m enjoying it.”

Ice carving is not only fun, but it is a forgiving medium, Roussel said.

“You can heat it with a torch, and you get this crystal magical finish. It’s brittle but it doesn’t have grain per se, so it’s easier to carve.”