Chill out at Ferndale’s annual holiday festival

By: Jeremy Selweski | Woodward Talk | Published December 5, 2012

 The 12th annual Holiday Ice & Winterfest Market will be held in downtown Ferndale from Dec. 7-9.

The 12th annual Holiday Ice & Winterfest Market will be held in downtown Ferndale from Dec. 7-9.

File photo by Deb Jacques

FERNDALE — The holiday spirit will be out in full force this weekend when the Holiday Ice & Winterfest Market returns to downtown Ferndale with a sleigh full of seasonal cheer.

The 12th annual festival will take over Nine Mile Road and Woodward Avenue from Dec. 7-9. After expanding the event from one day to three in 2011, organizers from the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority decided that bigger was indeed better.

“It was very well-received last year, and we’re hoping that we can duplicate that response again this year,” said Chris Hughes, communications and marketing manager for the DDA. “We know that one of the things we had working in our favor is that we were exceedingly lucky with the weather we had that weekend. But even if we don’t have perfect weather this time, there are still tons of fun holiday activities for people to enjoy all weekend long.”

The Holiday Ice & Winterfest Market will officially launch at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 with the lighting of the holiday tree at Nine Mile and Woodward. Mayor Dave Coulter will lead the ceremony with music from the Ferndale High School marching band and holiday hijinks from special guest Metalliclaus, a grouchy anti-Santa who has become an annual favorite at Ferndale’s own Detroit Comics.

“We were looking to do something a little different this year, so we thought, ‘Let’s have Metalliclaus join us at our tree-lighting ceremony,’” Hughes explained. “I’ve never met Metalliclaus before, but I’m really looking forward to it. I hear that he’s quite a character.”

That character is played by Jason Elliot, a longtime college buddy of Detroit Comics co-owner Brian Kelly. Kelly described Metalliclaus as a cross between Santa Claus, a biker and a metalhead: an irreverent holiday Scrooge whose tongue-in-cheek act provides a welcome respite from the typical “holly jolly” good times of the season.

“We appreciate the DDA for being open-minded enough to try something like this,” he said. “Ferndale is a pretty progressive place, so they will usually go out of their way to help all their businesses succeed, even those that are a little more out there. It’s going to be really cool to have Metalliclaus be a part of this huge event.”

Most of the festivities that were added in 2011 will be returning this year, as well, including the five-story Ferris wheel along East Nine Mile. Those who are worried about riding a Ferris wheel in the frigid December weather should have no fear, though, as the Ferndale DDA will be providing warm blankets for riders to use.

“I feel like that (attraction) really gives us a little bit of an edge,” Hughes said. “There isn’t a single person who won’t notice our giant Ferris wheel when they drive by on Woodward.”

Also on East Nine Mile will be the Winterfest Market, featuring about 30 local artisans selling their wares underneath heated tents. In addition, there will be a special holiday greens market, delicious food and beverages and, for the first time, an outdoor stage featuring live entertainment. According to Hughes, the stage was brought in this year in order to “add a little more action to that area.”

While the grand opening of the festival Dec. 7 is sure to be a hit, many of its activities will not get under way until Dec. 8. As in years past, a highlight of the weekend will be the more than 50 ice sculptures created by world champion ice carver Tajana Raukar that will be on display all over the downtown area. This year’s theme is Masterpieces in Ice, which will feature frozen renditions of renowned works of art and artists of every stripe, from The Thinker, to Mount Rushmore, to Johnny Cash and his guitar. In addition, Raukar will sculpt a new masterpiece of her choosing in the Nine Mile and Woodward median, starting at 1 p.m.

As Hughes pointed out, “We used our ARTWN (public art) project as inspiration for this year’s theme, and it wasn’t much of a stretch for our ice carver to get on board with it because she is a terrific artist herself. This will be an amazing opportunity for people to watch a block of ice get transformed into a work of art live, right in front of their eyes.”

Schiffer Park, located at West Nine Mile and Planavon Street, will host the bulk of the action for little ones on Dec. 8. Santa Claus will take free pictures with children from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2-4 p.m., and there will also be a live reindeer display from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., along with free hayrides to give visitors a tour of downtown Ferndale. Furthermore, the park will feature a warming tent with hot chocolate and sweet treats provided by the Ferndale Schools Fine Arts Boosters.

Elsewhere, families can enjoy lunch with Santa at Buffalo Wild Wings, 280 W. Nine Mile Road, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at a cost of $7 for adults and $5 for kids ages 12 and younger. Businesses across the downtown district will also be offering various holiday specials and activities, while a host of strolling carolers and musicians will be roaming the streets playing holiday songs and adding to the festive atmosphere.

Although most of the attractions on West Nine Mile will only be offered Dec. 8, the Ferris wheel, holiday stage show and outdoor market will remain open all three days. Dec. 9 will also boast special impromptu visits from Santa Claus along East Nine Mile and the rest of the downtown area.

Still, despite the huge variety of activities adorning Nine Mile and Woodward, Hughes stressed that the festival “is not an over-the-top event. It’s mostly a way to give people a chance to come out and enjoy downtown Ferndale with their family and do some holiday shopping. We know that this year is going to be just as much fun as last year.”

Hours for the 12th annual Holiday Ice & Winterfest Market in downtown Ferndale are Dec. 7 from 6-9 p.m., Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Dec. 9 from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call the Ferndale DDA at (248) 546-1632 or visit