Indiana’s Very Own Ice Tree: Family continues ‘cool’ winter tradition

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Thousands of people are flocking to the southern edge of Indianapolis to get a sneak peek at a “cool” and unique masterpiece.

“It’s an anchor to my winter time,” Janet Veal-Drummond, said, smiling.

The Veal family started the ice tree in 1961. Janet, who was a young girl at the time, wanted to go sledding one winter but there wasn’t enough snow. Since there was a pond conveniently in their backyard, the family decided to make their own ice hill. As the story goes, one night the pond blew the water coming out of the hose onto a honeysuckle bush.

The Veal family decided to keep adding onto it, making the ice sculpture even bigger. It was the start of a decades-long tradition.

“It just kind of holds our family together,” Wynter Veal-Drummond said.

Several hoses run all night long, adding water to the tree. The frigid temperatures then freeze the moisture, making a spectacular sight.

Veal-Drummond heads out every winter morning to shape the “tree.” Janet adds food coloring to the hoses to make it blue, pink, purple, yellow and red.

“The year the Colts were in the Super Bowl, we dyed it all blue,” Veal-Drummond remembered.

She showed CBS4 how the family chisels the tree.

“We make a frame out of old 2-by-4s and old tree limbs. Once we have a really good base, we’ll climb onto the base and add tree limbs,” Veal-Drummond said.

Reporter Angela Brauer grabbed a hatchet and some shoe chains and climbed the sculpture, too. She stopped about halfway to the top. Veal-Drummond kept going, climbing 42 feet to the top. It only took three weeks to get that big. The family is constantly trying to beat their own record of 80 feet.

People drive from all over the nation to visit Veal’s ice tree along Southeastern Avenue. Veal-Drummond confirmed, too, they’ve met people from other countries.

“Yeah, it’s crazy. I think it’s social media, word of mouth,” she said.

While this year’s tree will likely melt by May, the family plans to keep the tradition going.

“There’s a message of finding good things out of what might be hard times,” Janet said. “Learn from what we have right here. Winters are difficult. Driving, staying warm, paying the electric and gas bill is difficult but good things can come from it.”

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