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Veal's Ice Tree returns after 2 years away

At 31 years old, Wynter Veal-Hawk doesn't remember a time when she wasn't working on the family ice tree.

INDIANAPOLIS — This tradition is one of a kind. Wynter Veal-Hawk doesn't remember a time when she wasn't working on the ice tree.

"I'm 31," she said. "So really, as long as I could walk.” 

It all started by mistake more than six decades ago. 

"My mom and her brothers wanted to go sledding one winter and there was no snow, and so my grandpa and everybody said, 'Well, let's just make an ice hill,'" Veal-Hawk said. 

What they got was an ice tree.

"Everybody does think it's a tree," she said. "We take old tree limbs from dead trees, we don't kill anything, and we add those around the base. Then, when it's cold enough and we know it's consistently going to be 30 degrees or below, we turn the hoses on, [and] let the ice form."

It's hard work in the freezing cold, but for Veal-Hawk, it's rewarding in more ways than one. 

"It makes me think of my grandpa, and I never really got to meet him, but through the stories, I feel like I know him," she said.

His accidental invention in 1961 is as popular as ever today. Curious visitors are a daily occurrence.

"I'm in school for my graphic design degree and this class I'm taking photography," said Sheri Vermillion, of Greenfield. "This week's assignment is landscape, and I thought this was a perfect opportunity. I think I'm going to get a good grade."

There weren't any photos snapped a year ago when the ice wasn't up due to a variety of reasons.

"Without having that the last two years, you really see how people appreciate it," Veal-Hawk said.

It makes her appreciate this work even more. 

"This year, I feel like it's extra special because things are given and taken away from you, and the last couple years, we haven't had the ice tree," she said.

She's holding on to the moments she has and hoping spring-like temperatures hold off a little bit longer.

"Everybody else is excited, and we're over here kind of upset because it's our favorite thing to do," Veal-Hawk said.

The ice tree is open for visitors at 6445 Mimosa Lane on Indy's southeast side. Visitors are asked to remain on the pavement. People are welcome to park and take photos in front of the tree. Pets on leashes are also welcome. 

There's no entry fee, and the family said it doesn't accept donations.