SocialICE is nice… ice or no ice



2013. SocialICE.

Last night we attended our seventh annual SocialICE. This is the eighth year for the event. We missed the first one and perhaps didn’t even know about it, but have attended every once since.

According to the event organizers:

SocialICE – Rochester Minnesota’s Ice Bar – transforms the Peace Plaza in the heart of downtown Rochester to an outdoor ice bar experience. The event generates an artistic and sophisticated social gathering place complete with lighting effects, music, the Walk of Ice sculpture garden, drinks, and more. Come to SocialICE and you’ll experience seven 12-foot uniquely designed and themed ice bars – each with a signature drink! This event is FREE to attend and open to the public.

2010. One of the many ice bars.
2012. One of the many ice bars.
Social Ice 2011.
2010. Sliding up to the bar waiting for an Effen Blizzard.

The event has grown in attendance and extravagance over the years. The ice sculptures and special lighting effects just keep getting better and better. Only 200 people showed up to the first SocialICE in 2009; last year there were 46,000 attendees. Since the population of our city is about 110,000, that is a lot of people!

Through the years we have joined the frozen masses to enjoy a beverage and gaze at the ice carvings. But this year, there was a glitch. Instead of calling it SocialICE, they should have called it SocialMELT.

After sub-zero temperatures in 2014, and perhaps because of the competition with Valentine’s Day, the event was moved from the second weekend in February to the third. The average mean temperature on February 13 for our

SocialICE daily temperatures through the years.

area is 19°F but by February 20 it rises to 22°F. Moving it a weekend gives us a better chance of not being quite so cold. Those who don’t live around here may laugh, but there is a big difference between temperatures in the teens versus temperatures in the 20s.

Unfortunately, this weekend saw above average temperatures. The average high for today is 30°F but we hit 47°F. The average low is 14°F but ours was only 29°F. Friday, only saw a low of 36°F. Ice melts at 32°F. This did not fare well for the ice sculptures. By the time we got there, on the last night of the event, almost all of the statues had fallen over or been taken down, and there was little evidence that they’d ever been there.

2015. One of the many bars.

Kathy’s Pub’s Avenger bar with an eight-foot tall Incredible Hulk? ….Gone.

The Loop Bar & Restaurant’s giant Willy Wonka to support their Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme?  ….Gone.

Grand Rounds Brew Pub’s  Game of Thrones inspired Game of Pints bar? ….Gone.

The Peanut’s gang from the Tap House’s Lucy’s Kissing Booth? ….Gone.

Victoria’s Enchanted Forest? Gone.

The Walk of Ice? ….Gone.

The whole 36,000 pounds of ice that had been transformed into works of art? ….Gone.

2016. All that remained of Chester Bar & Grill’s Emerald City.
Social Ice 2011
2013. Ice bean bags (corn hole for folks who don’t live around here).

Fortunately, that didn’t seem to keep people away. The bars were still there even though most of the statues were gone and a lot of the bars were no longer made of ice. The bartenders at Salute Wine Bar & More were still wearing their lumberjack themed costumes complete with fake beards for the ladies. Patrons could still get themed libations with names like Peppermint Kiss, Peppermint Patty, Witch’s Brew, Magic Potion, Grown-Up Root Beer Float, and Bourbon Hot Chocolate (compete with bacon),   It seemed as crowded as ever. While I missed seeing the ice creations,

I have to admit it was a lot more comfortable. I was even able to take off my gloves when I was enjoying my Wizard of Oz – Emerald City inspired hot chocolate (with vodka and white Godiva chocolate liqueur) from Chester’s Kitchen & Bar.

2011. Ice sculpture.
2015. Ice sculpture.
2010. In the early days, bands played above in the sky-way with music pumped down to the crowd below.
2016. Live DJs entertained the crowds each night of the event.

We have never stayed long during our visits to SocialICE. We usually walk through,  look at all the ice bars (and their drink selections), take photos, buy a drink or two, shiver near a heater while we drink our drinks, then move on. We’ve paused to listen to the bands overhead in the sky-way, or to the DJ on the plaza in more recent years. On the occasions when we have run into people we know, we’ve huddled together and chatted awhile. Last night when we ran into some former co-workers we were able to carry on a comfortable conversation rather than stuttering with frozen lips. We didn’t even think about finding a spot near a heater.

2011. Some warmth.
2011. Even the mug was made of ice.

It is somewhat of a badge of honor, as a hearty Minnesotan, to say that you even “party” outside in February. Let’s hope that the weather cooperates better next year so that the beautiful ice sculptures can be admired. But, ice or no ice, SocialICE is a great event to get us out of the house in the middle of winter. 

2014. SocialICE.
2015. SocialICE.
2015. Ice sculpture.

Rochester, MN 55902


Bartolotta, Devin. “36,000 pounds of ice taking shape in Rochester’s Peace Plaza for SocialICE.” KTTC. 15 February 2016. Web. 21 February 2016.

“SocialICE – Rochester Minnesota’s Ice Bar.” Rochester Downtown Alliance. Web. 21 February 2016.

Stolle, Matthew. “SocialICE is ‘only going to grow.’” 18 February 2016. Web. 21 February 2016.

Weather Underground. Web. 21 February 2016.

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