The Way It Was — Plymouth Ice Festival, 1984

The event celebrates its 40th anniversary this year
plymouth ice festival
Plymouth Ice Festival photograph courtesy of the Detroit Historical Society (photo by Michael Ball)

1984 “Everyone complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” Mark Twain was fond of saying, though the quote originated with fellow writer Charles Dudley Warner. In winter, when whining about the weather reaches a fever pitch, the maxim assumes particular relevance. Unless you can escape to sunnier climes, there’s no point in complaining. So rather than kvetching about snow, ice, and shoveling, savvy souls know how to make the most of winter’s offerings.

Visitors to the Plymouth Ice Festival, now in its 40th year, certainly don’t give the cold shoulder to winter. Each year, dozens of large ice sculptures adorn the winsome streets of downtown Plymouth, celebrated for its charming shops and restaurants. Settled and incorporated in the 19th century, Plymouth became a city in 1932. Crowds are drawn to the festival to ogle the sculptures and partake in related activities, as well as dine and shop. Here, the 1984 sculpture “Puff the Magic Dragon,” named after the 1963 song by Peter, Paul, and Mary, and created by about 70 students from Oakland Community College, shows the mythical creature surrounded by human figures. Apparently, even Puff’s fiery breath couldn’t melt the ice.

This year, the Plymouth Ice Festival will be held Feb. 11-13 (more info at But those still intent on carping about the cold should remember what Irish author Oscar Wilde wrote in his touching children’s story “The Selfish Giant,” about a behemoth who transforms from cruel to kind. “He [the giant] did not hate the winter now, for he knew that it was merely the spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.”

This story is featured in the January 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition.