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Ice Fest returns to Thief River Falls for second year

Ice Fest is returning to Thief River Falls for its second year on Jan. 15-16, after a year without the festival in 2021 because of COVID-19. The two-day festival will feature hockey, snowshoeing and other outdoor activities to celebrate winter.

Tracy Hallstrom-snowshoes.jpg
A festival-goer gets ready to go night-time snowshoeing at Greenwood Trails at Ice Fest in 2020. This year, snowshoeing at Greenwood Trails will on Saturday, Jan. 15, at 2 p.m.
Adam Kurtz / Grand Forks Herald

THIEF RIVER FALLS — Ice Fest is returning to Thief River Falls for its second year on Jan. 15=16, after a year without the festival in 2021 because of COVID-19. The two-day festival will feature hockey, snowshoeing and other outdoor activities to celebrate winter.

“I think especially for us up here the winters just get long and it’s something to look forward to,” said Vanessa Ellefson, Thief River Falls Chamber of Commerce executive director and festival organizer. “It’s a great way to celebrate winter and all the things that we have here.”

The festivities start early on Saturday with a 6 a.m. trail run at Greenwood Trails Recreation Area. Festival-goers will be able to participate in winter sports with a fat tire bike ride and a snowshoeing walk on Saturday afternoon. On both Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 p.m., the Peder Engelstad Pioneer Village will have family friendly events like mini golf, cookies and snow activities. On Sunday, Pioneer Village will also have horse and wagon rides, which is a new event this year.

A major focus of the weekend festival will be hockey.

“We have a great hockey arena and great teams,” Ellefson said.

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Throughout the weekend, various hockey games will be held at Thief River Falls’ own Ralph Engelstad Arena and Old Arena. Saturday afternoon features Thief River Falls High School girls and boys hockey games against International Falls and Bemidji, respectively, followed by a UND Club Hockey game at 7 p.m. Peewee, mite and bantam teams are also scheduled to play.

Laura Stengrim, executive director of Visit Thief River Falls, hopes Ice Fest will help draw visitors from surrounding communities.

“An event like this really highlights and celebrates our mission by giving visitors a reason to come to Thief River Falls and celebrate winter versus merely surviving it,” Stengrim said.

And one thing that could help festival-goers enjoy the winter this weekend is the forecast. After a frigid start to the month, warmer weather is on the way for the weekend. Temperatures in Thief River Falls are expected to be well above zero, and in the mid-twenties on Sunday.

“The temperatures were extremely cold (in 2020). I want to say they were maybe 20 below midday,” said Stengrim. “We’re feeling pretty good about the forecast outlook.”

This year’s Ice Fest was organized by the Chamber of Commerce and advertised by Visit Thief River Falls. In 2020, it was organized by both organizations with the help of the city. The inaugural festival in 2020 featured around 40 events, but this year only 18 events are scheduled. Besides less entities organizing the event, Ellefson says a limited planning time contributed to a smaller festival. She said planning for the event started the week before Christmas.

Despite a smaller event overall, Ellefson still wants people to know that this weekend will still have plenty in store for residents and visitors alike.

“It gives us all something to do and hopefully people will stay in town this weekend,” said Ellefson.

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A full schedule of Ice Fest events can be found at trfchamber.com/ice-fest .

Related Topics: THIEF RIVER FALLS
Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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