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Ice art


The 2012 World Ice Art Championships are in the book.  Now is the time to reflect on what has been a challenging year, to say the least. 

With over 40 thousand visitors the event was characterized by Hoa Brickley in one word, "Success." 

Dick Brickley, chairman of the event, said, "We had a really huge break with having good weather allowing us to extend the show for an extra week."  He went on to say that the safety and security staff did an excellent job because there were less accidents and incidents than any prior year.  Considering that the footing is ice and snow there are bound to be slips, trips and falls. Brickley also said, "The electrical people did an exceptional job.  Getting the site ready with all the wiring was a gigantic undertaking for the crew of volunteers."


Carvers flock to Fairbanks

     Coming from far and near, about 200 international and local ice carvers made the George Horner Ice Art Park their home away from home, during February and March, for the 2012 BP World Ice Art Championships.

     The carvers are provided with a shared-room and breakfast at the Westmark Hotel, lunch and dinner at the park’s dining facility, transportation, massages, and a Chena Hot Springs Resort retreat. The ice park also provides on-site housing for those carvers arriving first in rooms above the dining facility and another building located on the back lot.

     An able seaman with the Alaska Marine Highway System, Kris Wilkin, 45, says he took two weeks off from work to enter the single-block competition. “I personally like to sculpt and do the detailed work,” said Wilkin. “It’s not about winning; it’s about expressing your art to others.”

     Monaco carver, Mario Amegee, gets his experience from his job back home.  He carves ice figures for receptions, birthdays, social events and even sculpts creative ice forms for Prince Phillip’s brunches.

     Amegee says he has been competing in this event for 16 years and likes the realistic category, carving animals and people. Two years ago he carved a 9-meter-tall King Kong. This year his team won second place in the multi-block competition with an abstract carving.

     “The trip to Chena Hot Springs and the massages are the best part,” said Amegee. “It’s also nice to have this place to come into and warm up,” referring to the dining facility. “And the food, well, it’s okay.”

     Steve Dean, originally from Fairbanks and now residing in Malibu, looks forward to the massages for his hands and lower back. “Most people don’t realize how sore your hands get from operating the tools while carving,” Dean said. “And my lower back is twisted awkwardly to brace the saw while carving.”

     49 Designs owner, Heather Taggard, has volunteered for Ice Alaska since 2005.  She is part of the web site and video production team who document the ice carvings and is responsible for the web media of the ice carvers.

     Taggard says Ice Alaska also provides the ice carvers with electricity, scaffolds, an on-site power tool repair shop and colorful lighting to show off their creative masterpieces.

     “The trip to Chena Hot Springs is a relief for the carvers,” Taggard said. “It’s a highlight they look forward to after finishing the single-block competition, because they can relax in hot water.”

     However, each carver must provide their own power tools. And Wilkin says that the power tools are expensive. He has about ten thousand dollars in carving tools and feels Ice Alaska should provide a heated storage unit for on-site overnight storage of tools.

     “It’s kind of a hassle dragging your tools up the stairs or onto the elevator,” said Wilkin. “Also you have to use a security card to get into the Westmark and your room. It can be a challenge, finding that card when it’s minus 25 degrees outside.” However, Wilkin does like the idea of staying at the Westmark after 10 to 12 hours of sculpting, instead of driving to his North Pole residence.

     Zhe An, 36, an ice carver originally from China, now lives in Fairbanks after competing in the event in 2005. He says it took him five years to get good at ice carving. “Itself satisfies me and the judging doesn’t matter,” said An. “I’m happy to just show it off and Fairbanks is the best place.”

     An demos and teaches ice carving at the Ice Museum on the corner of Second Avenue and Lacy Street year round.

     Ice Alaska is a non-profit organization, operating the ice park with about 450 volunteers, numerous sponsors and a nine member board of directors . Its new location for this year and future ice competitions is 3050 Philips Field Road, just a mile down the road from its old location.

     The home away from home is provided to all carvers for the entry fee of $100, travel to and from the event is not included.

     The end result of the ice park’s home away from home, according to Taggard, is lasting friendships and seeing the same carvers retuning again year after year. “The art speaks for itself and communicates across any language.”


Ice Park Family Fun

The unusually cold weather we have been having serves only one good purpose, it means the George Horner Ice Art Park can stay open for another week. The park was scheduled to close on March 25th, but will stay open due to below-normal temperatures.

The park is always a good time for both children and adults. From the slippery slides, Fred Meyer maze, to the ice sculptures themselves, the park is always a family fun event.

The massive ice sculptures are magnificent already, but seen by night with the colored-lights propped up behind them, they are gorgeous. After spending a great amount of time on the slides with my children, we ventured through the trails to scope out the sculptures. Both me and my husband Jacob’s favorite ones were the gigantic sculptures, particularly the one titled Prickly Perception. This masterpiece had an eerie leopard about to pounce on an ever ready porcupine. My 6-year-old daughter’s favorite was a single-block ice sculpture of a butterfly. My 2-year-old son couldn’t quite capture the beauty of the art, but he seemed to get a kick out of pulling his blue plastic sled through the narrow trails causing passerby’s to stumble if they got too close.

After walking through the trails, we warmed up with hot cocoa. Ready for another round of fun, we played on the spinning ice and posed with walruses and polar bears. To top off the night, Jacob and my daughter, Kahlia, ice skated in the rink while my son slid around in his Sorel’s. We spent a good four hours reveling in the park and thanks to the many pictures taken, we'll get to remember our last year spent living in Fairbanks.


And the World Watches

Don Swarner, a volunteer with Ice Alaska, allows the world to watch. He is charged with the installation and maintenance of an array of web cameras. The Screen_shot_2012-03-04_at_8.36.57_PMcameras went live on Sunday, March 4 at 9 a.m.

Don was tagged as the resident expert for Ice Alaska on web cameras because of his previous experience. He heads a volunteer team of eight people to ensure that the world will watch the magnificent creation of timely art.

Ice Alaska has three omni-directional and two directional antennas to capture the signals from the 19 web cameras at the multi-block carving sites. The system can support 30 cameras taking photos every 15 seconds on each one.

On site, everyone knows that an orange colored extension cord belongs to the website committee. Swarner says he has close to three miles of orange extension cords throughout the park.

He recalls a year, an artist would constantly unplug his orange cords. Because of a language barrier, it was difficult to explain the importance of not unplugging with the orange cords. The artist understood when he viewed the final video of his site. The delicate and time consuming project of attaching antlers to a caribou body was completely missing. Lesson learned.

The recordings from the cameras will be the basis for a two-hour DVD that will be available for purchase. The viewer will watch the progress of a team of carvers as they create what they hope will be a winning piece of art. Each of the sites will be edited from a week of real time to a clip of seven or eight minutes.

Each of the computer systems used has been given a nickname by his staff. 

“The system called “Archer” directs and stores a days worth of photos and backs them up in the evening. “Squirrel” is the main historical system with a huge memory capacity,” says Swarner. “The real work is done on “Lightning,” the video editing system.  Each day two or three people put in up to 15 man hours editing the previous day pictures."

He went on to explain that a piece of construction equipment might be driving through the site when the picture is taken and not there in any subsequent frames. These are the things that the volunteer editors are taking out.  The final product will look very smooth.

“The ladies that do the editing seem to have a more critical eye and are more detail oriented than the guys,” commented Swarner.

Visit Ice Alaska!


The George Horner Ice Art Park

The George Horner Ice Art Park comes to life.Owl_300x341

Big blocks of beautiful blue-hued ice are being transformed into castles, critters and characters.  Every day an army of volunteers descend on the park and lovingly sculpt the blocks into delights for the children.  Slides, mazes, castles, and animals will surely spark the imagination of the little ones.

The ice carving competition is yet to start.  Judging from the work that has been done already the volunteers are intent on making the opening year of the park one that will be remembered. There are no less than seven ice carvings before you turn in to the park’s drive.  More await guests prior to going through the ticketing gate. 

Thousands of visitors will bundle up warm to come and see the amazing displays that are a perennial draw to the BP World Ice Art Championships.  A family friendly atmosphere greets guests at every turn.

Children will squeal with delight when attempting to escape from an “ice bowl” into which the parents have placed them.  The slick surface of the concave bowl keeps them slipping back into the center.  They can enter the ice tunnel and hide from the parents view only to appear from another opening.

The maze will keep kids busy trying to find their way into, through and back out again.  The castle's corners mark where you might be in the maze.

The setting sun transforms the park as colored lights illuminate the carvings and create another dimension of beauty.  Mark your calendars and make memories at the new home of the BP World Ice Art Championships, the George Horner Ice Art Park.

Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the memories.


Visit Ice Alaska!