Last year's Ice & Oyster Fest included a fire tower made of ice. This year the festival boasts 50 sculptures. Photo: Dorchester County Office of Tourism

Ice Sculpture Season Kicks off with Cambridge Ice & Oyster Festival

You might not guess that there would be an “ice sculpture season” on the Chesapeake Bay, but it’s a growing trend during those doldrums between the end of the holiday season and the first warm days of spring. This January and February several Bay-region towns will host outdoor festivals featuring elaborate ice sculptures—and of course food, drink and music to go with them.

The Cambridge Ice and Oyster Fest kicks things off this weekend. On Friday evening, Jan. 13 and all day Saturday, Jan. 14, The Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce’s message is, “We’re open
for winter!”

In downtown Cambridge, master carvers will turn thousands of pounds of ice donated by IceLab and supplied by local entrepreneur Ricky Fitzhugh, into sculptures that celebrate life on the Eastern Shore. Among them will be a deadrise boat, a lighthouse, a captain’s wheel, dogs and deer.

Festival goers can have fun with interactive sculptures like a fully functional cornhole board made of ice, an ice “graffiti wall” to carve into and a throne of ice to pose on for royal-looking photos.

And in honor of national hero and Dorchester County native Harriet Tubman, a portion of the recently-installed bronze statue titled “Harriet’s Journey Home,” will be recreated in ice.

Of course, festivals mean food and drink. Thanks to presenting sponsor Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort and Spa, an ice bar and lounge (with ice sofas and chairs and a fire pit) will serve up artisan cocktails. For the classic campfire experience, there will be fire pits, s’mores, and hot chocolate. Oysters will be available in abundance—roasted, half shell, grilled, in chowders and more, supplied by local watermen and growers.

“Oysters are a mainstay of the region—look at Hoopers Island,” said Bill Christopher, Chamber President and CEO. “And January is a prime oyster month.”

For those who know their way around a shucking knife and a shell, the Oyster Shucking and Slurping Relay Contest may be the highlight of the day. Teams of two people will compete—one will shuck and the other will slurp 12 oysters. Once all twelve oysters have been shucked the slurper begins Once all 12 oysters are eaten and the last shell is on the table, the clock will stop and the winner will be declared.

Artists will perform live music on two different stages on Friday night and Saturday. The festival runs Friday 4-9 p.m. and Saturday noon-8 p.m., with Sunday as a rain date. To make a weekend of it, check out special room rates for festival visitors. Presenting sponsor Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Marina and Spa offers room rates up to 20 percent off for attendees. Enter the booking code “CAMBR” for stay dates between January 12, 2023 and January 15, 2023. The Comfort Inn and Suites, Cambridge, is also offering a discounted rate for Ice & Oyster Fest attendees at $95 per night. Contact reservations at 410 901 0926.

For festival information, maps, performance schedules, and any changes due to weather, click here.

If you can’t be in Cambridge this weekend, you have other chances to visit an ice festival. The following weekend, the Harbor Point Ice Festival comes to the Baltimore waterfront, between Fells Point and the Harbor East neighborhood. This festival boasts live ice carvings, food trucks, drinks, games, and a great view of the Baltimore harbor. The ice festival is on Saturday, Jan. 21 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 1310 Point Street, Baltimore. For more, click here.

Easton’s Chesapeake Fire & Ice Festival has live ice carving demonstrations. Photo: Discover Easton

The weekend after that, beachgoers can take in Bethany Beach, Delaware’s Fire & Ice Festival. This themed celebration is titled “Lights, Camera, Action!” for 2023, with at least 60 ice sculptures along the Bethany Beach boardwalk and elsewhere in town. Events run Friday through Sunday, January 27-29. In addition to ice carvings, chili cookoff, beer garden, and fireworks are among the highlights. For more on the Fire & Ice Festival, click here.

The first weekend in February, you can travel a little further west into the Bay watershed for the Fire in Ice Festival in Frederick, Md. Running since 2005, this festival displays more than 100 frozen sculptures. It takes the place of Frederick’s First Saturday, held monthly. You can see the sculptures downtown from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4. More detailed will be announced; click here for the event page.

Finally, Presidents’ Day weekend brings the Chesapeake Fire & Ice Festival to Easton, Maryland. You can tour the sculptures all over town on Friday evening and Saturday, see live ice carving demonstrations, skate on a synthetic ice rink in downtown Easton, and enjoy juggling and musical performances. The festival runs Feb. 17 and 18. For more information on the Chesapeake Fire & Ice Festival, click here.

-Niambi Davis & Meg Walburn Viviano