Visitors enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides in the snow during the 2021 Aqua Freeze Festival at Blossom Heath Park.

Visitors enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides in the snow during the 2021 Aqua Freeze Festival at Blossom Heath Park.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Crowds gather for Aqua Freeze in St. Clair Shores

Festival shines spotlight on Blossom Heath

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 22, 2021

 An ice carving of a penguin was one of dozens lining the pathway of the park during the 2021 Aqua Freeze Jan. 16 and 17.

An ice carving of a penguin was one of dozens lining the pathway of the park during the 2021 Aqua Freeze Jan. 16 and 17.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Between improvements to Blossom Heath Park and cabin fever exacerbated by COVID-19 shutdowns, plenty of people from St. Clair Shores and the surrounding communities showed up on a cold weekend in January to enjoy the activities offered during the Aqua Freeze Festival.

“I think people were very appreciative for something to do outdoors,” said St. Clair Shores Parks and Recreation Director Henry Bowman, who organized the Jan. 16-17 event.

Mike Walters, of St. Clair Shores, who came out with his wife and 10-year-old daughter to the event, agreed.

“Especially because it’s outdoors, it gives people a way to hang out,” he said.

Along with ice sculptures and ice carving demonstrations, the 2021 Aqua Freeze included horse-drawn wagon rides, a petting zoo, vendors and food trucks, plus some ice-themed games, a beer tent and music.

“From the parking lot all the way back to the beach house, we tried to use every bit of space we could,” Bowman said. “It was so great, all the different businesses in the community that sponsored sculptures or music or the fire pit. It was a really great community event.”

Laura and Chuck Cabble, of Roseville, said they like to participate in the offerings of the Nautical Mile because they keep their boat in the city. This year, Chuck Cabble said, Aqua Freeze was an even better idea because it was a way for people to enjoy themselves in an outdoor setting, which is thought to be a safer way to socialize during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the way things are going, it’s nice to do something outdoors, (and) I can’t go ice fishing yet,” he said.

Bowman said he was thankful to the prior organizers of the Aqua Freeze Festival and the Tax-Increment Finance Authority (TIFA) for the success of this year’s event.

“The people who ran the Aqua Freeze from previous years really set the groundwork for the event,” he said. “The improvements to Blossom Heath Park that were made over the past year has the most impact on people coming to events there now. People really enjoy it.”

Over the course of the two-day festival, Bowman said he was happy to see smiling children running around the park, playing ice putt-putt golf, enjoying the petting zoo and feeding the animals, and taking horse-drawn carriage rides. The Polar Plunge event was canceled due to fears that jumpers could spread germs to firefighters if they expelled water as they rose up out of the icy water.

St. Clair Shores resident Debbie Perkins, who was selling keychains and mask chains at a booth with her sister, who was selling hot cocoa and coffee bombs, said she was really happy to be supporting the community by renting a booth at the festival. She said it was a great way to get people out of quarantine and give them something less risky to do.

Aida Domazet, of Roseville, agreed, as she watched her daughter run around with other children on the play structure.

“Even if it’s cold, it’s nice. It’s outdoors. It’s much safer. These kids are shut in, and they need to explore,” she said.

Bowman said the event wouldn’t have been possible without help from major sponsors like First State Bank, Michael Agnello Jewelers, Landscape Services and the St. Clair Shores Hockey Association.

“I think it’s great for everybody to be able to get outside,” said Denise Salis, of St. Clair Shores. “I’m really interested in ice sculptures, and it’s something to do. It’s more than I expected.”

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