More than 60 ice structures, demonstrations of ice sculpture creation, duels, and a wide entertainment program for both adults and children – from February 2 to 4, the 25th International Ice Sculpture Festival will take place in Jelgava. In this jubilee year, 32 professional sculptors from 11 countries will bring their unique vision of the theme “Treasures of the World” to life, using a total of 80 tons of ice.
This year marks a quarter of a century for the festival – in this time, it has been attended over a million times, delighting visitors with more than 1000 artworks, growing from a local event in Latvia to one of the top 10 grandest ice sculpture events globally.
“The idea of the festival emerged in 1998 when I first saw ice sculptures at a food industry exhibition in Riga. I found out that the creators were brothers Anrijs and Rinalds Opincāni, and soon we agreed to create 10 ice art pieces for Jelgava,” recalls Mintauts Buškevics, head of the municipal institution “Kultūra”, adding that this led to the first ice sculpture exhibition in Jelgava, attracting around 5000 visitors, accompanied by a cultural program and a sculpture auction.
25 years of growth and records
The festival’s growth continued rapidly – in the second year in 1999, it became an international event with artists from the Nordic countries and a competition format for sculpture creation. From year 2000, the idea of a traveling festival format was implemented, attracting audiences not only in Jelgava but also in other Latvian cities. “Starting from the sixth anniversary, the festival became associated only with Jelgava and experienced further growth. We introduced large-scale sculptures, the competition involved up to 30 artists, and representatives from the World Ice and Snow Sculpture Association included us in their global circuit,” says M. Buškevics. Demonstrating international expertise and organizational skills, the Jelgava sculptor team regularly represented the city at other world-class ice sculpture festivals – initially in Magadan, and later in Harbin, China; Sapporo, Japan; and Fairbanks, USA. At the same time, the Jelgava festival continued to accumulate experience and develop – over the years, the program became increasingly diverse, Baltic records were set for the height and length of ice sculptures, and a record-high attendance of 85,000 visitors was achieved during one festival.
This year, the art of ice will revive world treasures
“Choosing the theme for the festival each year is a definite challenge. It is essential to stimulate imagination for art lovers, making it engaging for both adults and the little ones, while providing creative freedom for artists. This time, we invited sculptors to bring world treasures to life in ice. They can be visible and tangible or sensed and felt. From untouched natural treasures to human-created treasures in architecture, art, literature, and music. The world is truly full of treasures, and this time, everyone will find something of their own,” says M. Buškevics.
Sculpting skills demonstrated by 32 artists from 11 countries
The jury, in the sketch competition, selected the authors of the 30 best works for this year’s festival. Considering that many of them were new participants for the city, both sketches and technical drawings, as well as the artists’ creative experience, were evaluated. In the sculpture creation, professional sculptors from 11 countries – Ukraine, Indonesia, Argentina, Latvia, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Mongolia, the United Kingdom, and Spain – will compete this time. From January 29 to February 2, artists will create a total of 45 competition ice sculptures, with 15 sculptures being team efforts and 30 created individually. For the second year in a row, each individual sculpture will be crafted from a ton-heavy ice block, making them eight times larger than those created in previous years. “This format allows us to prepare a more ambitious and detailed artwork, while ensuring the durability of the artwork regardless of the weather conditions. The larger the ice mass, the slower it melts,” says M. Buškevics. It should be noted that the festival will feature more than 60 ice objects in total, including large-format ice photo sculptures created by sculptors Kārlis and Maija Īle.
Historical flair and two stages
For the first time post-pandemic, the festival will revive in a historical manner – welcoming visitors with two stages and a comprehensive entertainment program in both Pasta (Post) Island and the outdoor concert hall “Mītava,” as well as Jānis Čakste Boulevard. In Pasta (Post) Island, attendees can view team sculptures and photo objects, participate in thematic games, enjoy the special ice sauna, and visit the ice bar “Atlantis – Lost Treasures.” Meanwhile, the “Mītava” concert hall will offer the experience of ice sculpture-making duel demonstrations, various children’s play programs, and concert performances. Jānis Čakste Boulevard will host 30 individual competition sculptures, as well as ice photo sculptures. Visitors there can also enjoy a grand musical concert program.
Festival visitors are also invited to explore other tourist attractions in Jelgava. For example, Ģederts Eliass Jelgava History and Art Museum will extend its working hours on February 2 and 3. All tourism offerings during the festival can be found on the website www.visit.jelgava.lv.
Tickets on Sale – Early Bird Discount
Until February 1, tickets can be purchased at a lower price at “Biļešu paradīze” ticket offices. The one-day ticket price for adults is 10 euros, while for students, pupils, seniors, and people with disabilities, it’s 5 euros. Family tickets and tickets with the “3+ Family Card” are also available at a discounted price of 20 euros. Only at the Jelgava Cultural Center box office, a ticket with the January 23 “Jelgavas Vēstnesis” Ice Sculpture Festival coupon or by presenting a Jelgava resident card costs 7 euros, and showing a Jelgava student ID costs 4 euros.
From February 2, the entrance ticket for adults will cost 15 euros, for students, pupils, seniors, and people with disabilities – 7 euros, and the family ticket will be 30 euros. Entry for children up to seven years old is free.
When purchasing an entrance ticket, it will be valid for any of the event dates but is intended for one-day entry. Tickets are also valid in electronic form. On festival days, ticket booths will be available at Pasta Island, near Student Theater and at the beginning of J.Čakstes bulvāris, as well as in the largest parking lot opposite Jelgava Castle. All ticket purchase locations will also accept card payments.
Residents are invited to take into account that due to the event, planned traffic restrictions are in place, and from January 25, Pasta Island will be closed to visitors, leaving access only to the public ice rink. From February 1 to February 5 at 12 p.m., Pasta Island will be closed from Pilssalas Street. During the festival, access to Pasta Island, including the ice rink, will be only for festival attendees.
As the festival approaches, other traffic restrictions will also be in effect. The main stage of the festival will be located on Jānis Čakste Boulevard, so from January 30, from 9 a.m. to the evening of February 5, traffic will be closed on Jānis Čakste Boulevard from Elektrības Street to Lielā iela, Driksas iela from Akadēmijas iela to Jānis Čakste Boulevard, and Ūdens iela. Similarly, from January 31 to February 5, the pedestrian bridge “Mītava” will be closed, accessible only to festival attendees from February 2 to February 4.
Organizers caution that during the festival, there may be increased traffic intensity and congestion in the city. Drivers are urged to be cautious and avoid crossing the Lielupe Bridge – cars can be parked in parking lots available on both riverbanks. Festival attendees, as well as residents, are requested to stay updated on the current situation and changes in the navigation app “Waze.” Additionally, it is advisable to familiarize oneself in advance with traffic restrictions, access roads, and parking lots, which can be found on the traffic scheme.
The event attendee agrees that they may be filmed and photographed. The captured material may be broadcasted, reproduced, and distributed without restriction. More detailed information about personal data processing by Jelgava City Council is available HERE.