A trip to the Loop’s annual Ice Carnival
A few hours past noon, the air had already turned several of the sculptures into drizzling rocks of ice; what remained were only slight resemblances to their original subjects. With temperatures in the ’60s, the Delmar Loop hummed with an uncommonly bright atmosphere for a mid-January day—but for a day when the main attraction was a diverse selection of ice sculptures, the weather wasn’t entirely welcome.
Still, the particularly leaky renderings were impressive, with one lusty-eyed mermaid in Fitz’s parking lot featuring articulated strands of hair and a deftly carved body suggestive of an experienced ice sculptor.
The Ice Carnival on the Loop, one of St. Louis’ noted winter traditions, took place on Saturday, Jan. 19, with a dizzying list of festivities that ran throughout the day. Normally held before students return for the spring semester, the Carnival this year took place after students returned for the spring semester and featured a diverse array of events, ranging from the Frozen Buns Run—an affectionately-termed event for early-morning 5K and 10K racers—to a host of street performers, game booths and ice carving demonstrations.
The ice sculptures, perhaps the only unhappy customer of the weather, seemed to be merely an excuse to get outside and stroll among the roving crowd of young families, couples and their dogs. Children in particular were transfixed by the entire production, confirming the Carnival’s reputation as a PG event. “Can I drink this?” a young boy asked his mother, pointing to the blue straw of a large Smoothie King smoothie that had been erected in ice. Others ran their fingers eagerly through the fissures and corners of the sculptures, repeatedly exclaiming to their parents just how smooth everything was.
Outside Cicero’s, a young woman hit a ball down a frozen mini-golf course, where iced beer mugs rose up from the slippery path as her only obstacles. A crowd looked on, shoulder-to-shoulder, as the smell of the food rose delicately from the storefront. Outside of Cheese-ology, a sculpture of the eatery’s logo dripped as it beckoned customers into the restaurant’s interior.
The shameless plugging grew steadily gratuitous, with some establishments offering temporary tattoos of their companies’ names to children. After a few stops at boutiques and numerous heavenly bargains at Avalon Exchange, the crowds had thinned and the air had grown cooler. Near Sunshine Daydream, two street musicians in bad need of haircuts crooned acoustic versions of ’90s punk songs while young men dressed in penguin suits posed for pictures with children who were too enamored to stay still for very long.
While the sun set on the carnival, a disc jockey and other local artists blasted the 2010 chart-topper “Black and Yellow” to a scattered crowd of families and dancing youths outside of Limit Avenue. The music diffused through the scene, giving pause to passersby and even forcing a few legs to tap.
After grabbing a bite at Pi Pizzeria, there was little else to do but head home. The events, while diverse and reasonably engaging for children, seemed of spare interest as evening grew near. But while ice did not impress for the older crowd, the atmosphere did. The day had been full of a special levity perhaps difficult to reproduce in the confines of dorm rooms and cafeterias.