Just 20 minutes southeast of downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, Veal’s Ice Tree is a winter spectacle for all Hoosiers to enjoy. But this curious landmark isn’t new: The Veal family has been creating an ice tree since 1961.
On a recent weekend, Maxwell Tucker and I ventured to the Veal household to see the sight for ourselves. We were surprised to find the massive ice tree is sourced from a spring-fed pond in the backyard. Multiple hoses are positioned into the ice tree to provide continuously flowing water. The family frequently moves the hoses, and to get new ice at the top, they climb up the tree themselves.
Curious passersby flocked to the Veals’ backyard to take photos and gawk at the massive sculpture. While we were admiring the icicles, another bystander remarked, “When you’re working on it every day, you don’t always get to admire how beautiful it is.”
We struck up a conversation with the man, none other than John Veal himself. The story goes that 60 years ago, Veal left a hose running that in turn created a miniature ice tree. Veal’s father, Vierl, liked the idea so much that the larger ice tree tradition was born.
John is the second generation of Veal family members to maintain the ice tree, and he is currently passing it on to a third generation. He says family members love creating the tree each year, calling it a hobby they love to share.
The family begins to build the frame from scrap lumber and timber twine in late December. Garden hoses are tied to the structure to let water spray and eventually freeze. Over time, more “branches” are added to grow the tree, which usually lasts until the first part of April.
The tree’s height is determined by the frequency of below-freezing temperatures and time the family has available to craft it. While this year’s tree stands about 40 feet tall, Veal told us the ice tree in 2014 reached an estimated 80 feet.
You may be wondering how the tree gets its beautiful colors. The blue color is made from pond dye, while the red and green colors come from food coloring. The color is then sprayed onto the ice with a garden hose sprayer.
The family maintains the yearly ice tree without taking any donations or charging admission. According to the family’s website, they have fun and take pride in creating a one-of-a-kind attraction that also functions as a heartwarming memory of Vierl Veal.
WHEN YOU GO
Veal’s Ice Tree
6445 Mimosa Lane, Indianapolis, IN