IMG_8235.JPG

LOUDONVILLE - In past years, they've shivered through sub-zero temperatures or battled unseasonable heat.

But this year, with highs in the 20s and flurries in the forecast, the ice carvers from Elegant Ice Creations had the perfect weather to demonstrate their craft at Mohican Winterfest. 

Dozens of spectators at a time gathered in Loudonville's Central Park to watch as Jeff Meyers carved a 300-pound block of ice into a reindeer. Not to be outdone, Aaron Costic carved a 1,500-pound block into a horse. 

Shortly after the first carving demonstration started, snow began to fall, adding to the magical winter feeling already in the air. 

"The snow falling just makes it even better," said Sheri McCombs of Lexington, who comes to Winterfest almost every year. Along with her family and friends, McCombs likes to stay overnight at the cabins at Mohican State Park and make a weekend of it. 

Jeff and Ali Barker of Mansfield came to Winterfest for the first time this year. 

Though the Barkers are friends of Costic, Saturday was their first time watching him carve. 

"It's pretty awesome, just the artistic ability to look at a block of ice and make something out of nothing," Barker said. 

A competition carver, Costic said his horse was actually on the smaller end of the pieces he has carved. 

For a competition piece, Costic might have three days to work. But at an event like Winterfest, he tries to keep the carving time down to about 30 minutes so the audience can watch from start to finish without getting bored or becoming too cold. 

After shaping the ice with various electric carving tools, the carvers finish their pieces with a blow torch, melting the surface enough to make it shine.

In addition to watching the demonstrations, most Winterfest visitors make a point to walk the sidewalks along Main Street and Water Street, which are lined with an array of sculptures.

Toy train enthusiasts stopped by the Loudonville Agricultural Society building, also known as Hans Event Center, to see the David Sheaffer Memorial Train Expo. 

Snowmobile lovers found a treat in Bob Winkler's vintage snowmobile collection, which has been part of Winterfest for several years. 

Loudonville Fair Board member Don Nickles was delighted to see the crowd of people lingering downtown. 

"We had it one year when it was about 20 below and no one watched," he said. "It's great today."

In addition to the Loudonville Mohican Chamber of Commerce, which coordinates the event, the fair board provides help with setup and other logistics. The Loudonville Public Library, Cleo Redd Fisher Museum, The American Legion and The Ohio Theatre all held events in conjunction with Winterfest, and the local United Methodist Church served lunch. More than 30 businesses sponsored ice sculptures this year. 

"It's like the fair. It takes a community to pull this off," Nickles said. 

Winterfest continues Sunday with ice sculptures on display all day and the Model Train Expo continuing from noon to 4 p.m. The Ohio Theatre will show Mary Poppins Returns at 2 p.m. The 14th annual Mohican Trails Club Winter Hike will begin at 9 a.m. at the camp store located at the Mohican State Park's Class A campground, just south of Loudonville on State Route 3. There will be three guided hikes-- a 5K, a 10K and an interpretive hike led by a park naturalist.