LANSING, Mich. — The sound of power tools travels through the air as ice chips fall to the walkways. Ingham County residents watch in wonder at the Potter Park Zoo as a block of ice is transformed into an icy cotton-top tamarin right before their eyes.
The Ice Safari, held Feb. 11–12 and 18–19, is a time at the zoo unlike any other.
Ann Bean, a volunteer at the Potter Park Zoo, said she finds great joy in being a part of the annual event and spreading that joy to others in attendance.
“It is the happiest place in Ingham County,” Bean said.
This is the third year Potter Park Zoo, home to over 160 animal species, has hosted the Ice Safari Event. Special Projects Coordinator Carolyn Fabro said the event was the perfect way to create a sense of community after the COVID-19 pandemic. Fabro initiated the first Ice Safari in 2021.
“We were coming out of the pandemic, and I thought, ‘You know what, let’s try to get some ice sculptures into the zoo,’” Fabro said.
Bean added that the event is held during a time of year when people need a reason to come out and enjoy the company of others.
“People just come here, and they feel good, and they’re excited to see the animals,” Bean said. “It’s just really fun.”
Residents are able to enjoy the animals during what would traditionally be considered the “off-season.” Fabro recognized that animals such as the arctic fox, snow leopard, and otter are much more engaging this time of year.
“Some of our animals are really cold weather-driven, so you know they might not be as active in the middle of the summer,” Fabro said. “But you’re going see them in the winter.”
Though the animals are not the only source of entertainment at Ice Safari.
The event showcases the incredible talent of Scott Miller, owner of Miller Ice Sculptures. Ice sculpting is a talent that Miller has been honing for just over 40 years.
In the short time of 45 minutes to an hour, residents can watch as a block of ice is transformed into one of the animal residents. Additionally, there are 10 pre-carved sculptures located throughout the zoo, placed in close proximity to the animals they resemble.
“It’s neat to see some of your favorite animal residents depicted in ice,” Fabro said.
Miller has gotten used to the pressure of performing his craft live in front of a crowd, even with equipment malfunctions and glaring sun. The people in attendance are what he enjoys most about the event.
“I like interacting with people,” Miller said. “I like to be able to be a part of this.”
Bean also attributes human interaction as being her favorite aspect of the event. She said that there are so many good people in the world, and she loves being able to share this experience with them.
While the animals are great, what Bean enjoys most is “being among people and having that interaction.”
The event has wrapped up for the current season, but next year’s Ice Safari is set to take place Feb. 10–11 and 17–18.
The Potter Park Zoo hopes to provide a unique experience to visitors, year after year, and leave a lasting impression of joy and entertainment.
“It’s just fun to see people enjoy the zoo in a different capacity,” Fabro said.