A fresh snowfall was a welcome sight prior to the start of Zehnder’s Snowfest in Frankenmuth.

FRANKENMUTH – A fresh snowfall was a welcome sight prior to the start of Zehnder’s Snowfest in Frankenmuth. The 32nd annual event was held Jan. 25-29. Thousands of visitors descended upon Frankenmuth to check out snow and ice competitions and exhibitions. Snowfest also included live music, food and special events. Fireworks displays capped off the winter celebration Friday and Saturday. 

“After overcoming lack of snow and mild temperatures forcing the cancellation of the World Class Snow Sculpting event, and then dealing with an area-wide winter advisory, overall we are very pleased with the success of Zehnder’s Snowfest 2023,” said John Shelton, Zehnder’s vice president of sales and marketing, on Monday. 

On Jan. 18, it was announced that due to unseasonably warm weather, the World Class Snow Sculpting Competition would not happen. The Children’s, State and High School Snow Sculpting competitions went on as scheduled. This allowed for additional ice-carving exhibitions, one more fireworks show and another amusement park ride. On Jan. 21, four truckloads of snow were hauled from Grayling to Frankenmuth – Michigan’s “Little Bavaria.” One week ago, a couple of inches of snow fell in the area, blanketing the landscape. More snow fell in the area by Sunday.  

“The added Friday night fireworks along with the additional ice carvings really helped fill the void from the canceled snow-carving event,” Shelton said. He noted that attendance was down, approximately 20%, from last year. That figure was in line with pre-COVID-19 attendance numbers and revenue. “Most of the decrease in attendance occurred Sunday due to the over six inches of snow,” Shelton said. 

Shelton said Snowfest had 38 snow sculptures – down from about 50 last year – and 139 ice carvings spread throughout the downtown area. “Wow, these are done by high school students,” visitor Alice Martinez-Smith commented near the children’s snow-sculpting division displays and the high school snow sculpting competition at the Frankenmuth River Place Shops. 

“This is pretty impressive, but it’s sad because it’s been a little warmer.” This was the first Snowfest attended by Martinez-Smith, of Indianapolis. She was invited to Frankenmuth by her good friend, Mary Koski. “Michigan is the best place and all the good things are here,” Martinez-Smith said.

Koski, of Holly, said she is impressed by the festive spirit of Frankenmuth in January. “It’s a fun activity for the kids,” she said. “They are all so excited and we saw ice skaters across the way. I thought that was a nice touch. It seems like a nice family event.”  

The festival brought in ice blocks for two Ohio-based sculpting companies – Ice Creations and Rock on Ice. The two teams worked on four, 10-block ice carvings – each of the four weighing 3,000 pounds – and 13, four-block ice carvings, weighing 1,200 pounds apiece.

In the high school snow-sculpting competition, Hemlock High School came in first place, Frankenmuth High School placed second, and Clio High School took third place. The Collegiate Alumni Ice Carving Challenge began Friday, where teams competed in a two-day, multi-block competition at the Edwin L. Zehnder Park on South Main Street.

“We always strive to provide the highest quality versus the highest quantity of snow and ice carvings along with great entertainment, great food and great service,” Shelton said. Visitors enjoyed refreshments, displays, and live music in the festival warming tent, situated in Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth parking lot.