Warm up your January with the festivities at the Cambridge Ice and Oyster Festival and other ice sculpture events. Photo: Dorchester Chamber of Commerce

Here Comes Eastern Shore “Ice Season”

When the holiday season ends, Ice Season begins on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Just when you thought the magical holiday events were over and winter was getting dull, ice sculpture festivals are popping up throughout January and February.

On Friday, Jan. 12 and Saturday, Jan. 13, the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce welcomes locals and visitors to its third annual Ice and Oyster Festival in the heart of downtown Cambridge.

“We’re different,” says Bill Christopher, Chamber of Commerce President and CEO. “Most people do fire and ice—we do ice and oysters.” On Jan. 12 from 4-9 p.m. and Jan. 13 from noon until 8 p.m., from Cannery Row to Blue Ruin, attendees of the kid-friendly festival can interact with ice sculptures and artisans, enjoy local food and drink, warm themselves by the fire, and listen to good music.

The festival’s ice sculptures are created by Ice Lab, whose international carvings include an ice replica of the Eiffel Tower, created for a client in celebration of her 50th birthday. For this year’s Ice and Oyster Festival, they’ll create a 20-foot ice slide for kids (and a few of their adults) to enjoy, commissioned by presenting sponsor Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay. (The Hyatt is offering room discounts up to 20 percent off for the festival; call (410) 901-1234).

Parrot Heads will have a tropical rocking good time as they’re transported to Margaritaville on the Choptank at the Jimmy Buffet Tribute Bar. There’ll be  ice sculptures of parrots and palm trees, the sounds of Jimmy Buffett music, and of course, plenty of margaritas.

It’s called Ice and Oysters but there will be fire, too. “Most people would be surprised to find a fire tower at an ice festival,” Christopher says, “but we’ve got it.” Although the sculpture is created from ice, a propane tank connected inside the tower shoots flames high into the air. The Fire Tower is sponsored by the festival’s most faraway sponsor, a Philadelphia business that saw the Ice and Oyster advertisement and wanted to become part of the event. More ice sculptures include the return of the 1,000-pound retriever, a fully functional duck blind for the curious to crawl in and out of, a hockey rink, a shuffleboard table, and even a tractor-trailer made from ice. Those who perfected the art of beer pong in college can reprise their skills on a beer pong table sculptured from ice. Throughout the festival, Ice Lab artists will be on hand with chainsaws, grinders, and chisels to display their ice sculpture skills.

The Cambridge Ice & Oyster Festival features games like “ice pong”, a frozen version of beer pong. Photo: Dorchester Chamber of Commerce

For this Eastern Shore Festival, oysters, a mainstay of the region, will be available roasted, raw, and grilled,  represented by the following vendors: Madhouse Oysters, Dorchester Seafood Heritage Association, Choptank Terrapin Oyster Co., Double T Oyster, Farm Creek Oyster Co. Madison Bay Seafood and Seed to Shuck Ventures/Bonnie’s Seafood Shack. Shucking demonstrations will take place on both days. Those who love the campfire experience can roast s’mores, and sip hot chocolate around one of the many firepits. For anyone desiring an adult beverage, ice bars with cocktails and craft beers can be found around the festival area.

There’s live entertainment on two stages, with popular bands on two stages. Nearby the Cambridge Rescue Fire Company Train Garden’s 40’x16’ display of “trains, bridges, and other mechanical construction,” will be open for visitors.

In the case of rain, which Christopher calls “the enemy of ice festivals,” Sunday, January 14, is set as a rain date. For more information on the Cambridge Ice and Oyster Festival click here.

To experience more of the area’s fire and ice festivals, head to Bethany Beach, Delaware. The Quiet Resorts and the Bethany Fenwick Chamber of Commerce will put on their “Into the Wild” Fire and Ice Festival 2024. On January 14th, local bartenders will compete to have their drink crowned King of the Competition. Over the weekend of January 26-28, you can tour sculptures carved by the Ice God from more than 60,000 pounds of ice. There’ll be an inflatable maze for kids, plenty of food trucks, wine tastings, live music, a chili cookoff, a beer garden, and an ice drink luge. For more information click here.

On the upper Bay just over to the Western Shore, Havre de Grace, Maryland hosts its own Ice Festival on Feb. 3, 3-8 p.m. downtown. This year’s theme is “Magic, Monsters & Make Believe!” and the festival boasts  ice-carving demonstrations, a chili cook-off, outdoor hot toddy garden, live performances, character meet & greets, corn hole boards made of ice, fire pits and free s’mores.

For a fun-filled President’s Day weekend, join Discover Easton for the Chesapeake Fire and Ice Festival. The historic downtown area will feature dozens of ice sculptures, carving demonstrations, live music, and outdoor skating rink. Walk through the Fire Trail and visit the Children’s Ice House at the Talbot County Free Library. Take advantage of seasonal sales and restaurant specials. Stews and Brews, the 206th birthday celebration of Frederick Douglass, and King: A Filmed Record – Montgomery to Memphis are part of Discover Easton’s weekend events. For more information click here.

Whichever ice festival you put on your calendar, rest assured that all that icy fun will warm your heart.