Frankenmuth, Mich. — The Zehnder’s Snowfest outdoor winter festival is back from Jan. 26-30, 2022 along historic Main Street in Frankenmuth, Mich. It will feature dozens of snow sculptures, ice carvings, live music in the warming tent, children’s activities and a fireworks show. A new outdoor ice rink was added for the winter season and it will be open during the festival as well.
I spoke exclusively with John Shelton, vice president of sales and marketing at Zehnder’s, for a preview of this year’s Snowfest.
“Back by popular demand on Saturday is our ever popular fireworks show that starts at approximately 6:45 p.m. here in downtown Frankenmuth. Once again, we’re going to have high quality, world-class snow blocks carving sculptures. We have teams from throughout the whole midwest. We have five double block participants and six single block participants. We will have 19 blocks for our Snow Sculpting State of Michigan Championship. We have 18 high school teams and each team is a minimum of three people, maximum of four people. All in all, we’re going to have 65-70 snow blocks with 95 people participating on the snow side of things. Then, we also have on Friday and Saturday is our Collegiate Alumni Ice Carving Challenge. We have on Friday the 28th our single block competition. Then the 10 people will team up on Saturday and there will be five two-person teams doing a five-block piece. That takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 o’clock on Saturday. That’s the competition part of everything but in between all of that we’ve got music, we’ve got dancing, we’ve got vendors, we’ve got costume characters, we’ve got media people. We like to think of Snowfest as winter fun for old and young alike. From the petting zoo the pony rides just to the 338th Army Orchestra patriotic concert on Saturday at 10 a.m. It’s a little bit of everything for everybody. I’m looking forward to it. This is our 31st year. We eagerly anticipate having large crowds again.
Last year, obviously, due to the Covid restrictions, we had a very, very modified version of Snowfest where we weren’t even open as a restaurant. Everything we had to do was take out and outside. We didn’t have a warming tent. We had no entertainment. We had about seven snow blocks, ice carvings and even people came out to see that. We think we’re going to have quite the crowd come out for Snowfest 2022.”
That sounds a lot bigger than the Snowfest last year in 2021.
“Yeah, last year was a very modified version. This year’s Snowfest is like Snowfest pre-pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, if you’ve been to Zehnder’s Snowfest, you can look forward to seeing the same sights and sounds that we’ve had in the past. I’m looking forward to…we have a professional ice team led by Greg Butauski out of Columbus, Ohio. We’re doing a 100-block under the big tent theme. It’s a circus theme. There’s about eight or nine different figurines. That’s going to be fabulous. It’s very interactive so people can take pictures with the ice sculptures. I just saw the sketch of it and I think it’s going to be a tremendous crowd pleaser. It kicks off on Jan. 26 and goes until Sunday, Jan. 30. We encourage people to come out and enjoy the outdoors of a beautiful Michigan winter. You can warm up in the warming tent and listen to some great music. There will be magic shows for the kids on Saturday and Sunday inside the warming tent as well. We look forward to another fantastic and successful event.”
I heard there was a new outdoor ice rink that was added for the winter season.
“Yes, I’m so glad you brought that up. It’s not something that Snowfest put on. It’s actually the Frankenmuth Ice Rink. It’s been up since Thanksgiving weekend. We call it our Christmas experience and now it will be part of our Snowfest experience. It is right next door to Zehnder’s at Zehnder Park. It has been a tremendous, tremendous hit. It’s a fantastic ice rink, full Zamboni, the whole nine yards. That will be available. They are open Friday until 9 p.m. and Saturday until 10 o’clock. I believe the rink opens up each day at 10 a.m. On Sunday, it goes until roughly 6 p.m. Bring your skates. If you don’t have skates, you can rent skates. It’s $10 to be on the ice and I believe its $3 to rent the skates. For $13, it’s a great value.”
Where the ice rink is now, isn’t that where there used to be ice sculptures before?
“You’re absolutely right. At that time, we hosted the Collegiate Ice Carving championships. We are no longer doing that. What we’re doing is a modified version of that. We are hosting the Collegiate Alumni Challenge so you have had to participated in a college event to be in this particular event. We are taking a portion of the park with space to do 10 single blocks on Friday and five multi-block teams on Saturday. You’re going to have this beautiful combination of an ice rink 60 x 120 right next to these beautiful ice sculptures. All in all, we’ll have about 30 sculptures in the park.”
I’m so excited that the warming tent is coming back with all of the music performances. Also, the karaoke competition.
“That’s Friday night sponsored by WKCQ. I look forward to that. They do a great job with that. Wednesday we open up Snowfest with our All Things Chocolate baking contest. The big highlight on Thursday sponsored by Joe FM and Premium Outlets Birch Run is the Bingo contest. People enjoy that. There’s great prizes for that. It goes through Sunday with all kinds of entertainment from karaoke and country night to Saturday we what call our Classic Days where we have the 338th Army Band and we have a band called Cruisin’ Jupiter and we have the Rock Show and magic shows in between that. It’s going to be non stop activity on Saturday from 10 a.m. until midnight.”
As you stated earlier, a fireworks show is also happening on Saturday.
“Oh, a fabulous fireworks show, correct. That’s the highlight of the entire event for a lot of people. I get people who say it’s the best fireworks they’ve ever seen. I always say, ‘No, it’s not true. It’s probably the only fireworks you’ll see in the middle of the wintertime.’ Instead of having to wait until 10 o’clock for it to get dark, we start our show at 6:45 p.m. and it’s about a 20-25 minute show. As it bursts in the sky, you see the reflections off of the snow. It’s a different fireworks experience that most people don’t get to experience because you don’t normally go to a fireworks show in the middle of winter. I don’t think it’s the best. It is probably unique to a lot of people.”
Where are the best viewing spots for the fireworks show?
“I always say behind Zehnder’s parking lot by the warming tent is a great spot because we simulcast it to music. If you want to enjoy the music with the firework show display, that’s the best place. Also, by River Place Shops you can see it as well. The prime spot is at Zehnder’s parking lot.”
Since you will be having a lot of snow and ice sculptures taking over the parking lots, where should people park their cars?
“We always recommend shuttle. We’ll have shuttle service from Bronner’s Wonderland. We’ve also partnered with the Birch Run Convention and Visitors Bureau. We also have shuttle available from any hotel in Birch Run. You can park at one of the hotels if you are staying overnight in the area. They will shuttle you in as far away as Birch Run. Yes, you’re absolutely right. The parking lot at Zehnder’s is going to fill up quite fast. We kind of recommend in a residential area but the most efficient way is to park at Bronner’s and take the shuttle. We take you to the Covered Bridge and you just walk over the Covered Bridge and you’re in downtown Frankenmuth.”
Once again, the Zehnder’s Snowfest runs from Jan. 26 – 30, 2022 in downtown Frankenmuth, Mich. Admission is free for all to enjoy. For more info, visit https://www.zehnders.com/snowfest/
Click Here to view the official Zehnder’s Snowfest Program (PDF)