Meet the building blocks of Ice Alaska | Community features
Every day since the beginning of January, Ice Alaska’s team of volunteers has grown as the group relearned that it takes a village to build an ice park.
Third-year volunteer AJ Duncan was part of the harvest team this year. He shoveled snow from the pond, squared the ice to cut it, operated the saw to cut the ice, and operated the zoom boom forklift to retrieve and load the ice onto a flatbed trailer. After all his efforts and those of many other Ice Alaska volunteers, 400 gigantic blocks of ice will have been harvested from the K&K Recycling gravel pit and transported to the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds as part of the World Ice Skating Championships. art on ice 2022 and family fun. Ice park.
In recent weeks, a small army of assemblers, harvesters and carvers have been sawing, polishing and gluing together with slush a collection of displays, games, slides and sculptures of blocks of ice and snow. Polished and ready to use, the blocks can measure up to 4 feet by 6 feet and are 3 feet deep, with a distinctive blue color. They easily weigh over 2,000 pounds, requiring volunteers like Tom Gullickson as a zoom pole operator to move these monsters into place. Gullickson has 30 years as a volunteer at Fairbanks Ice Carving Festivals and doesn’t plan on quitting anytime soon.
Blocks are almost evenly split between the Family Fun Ice Park and the World Ice Art Championships. Sculptors from around the world and locals compete in the three main categories, single, double and multiblock block events. Solo carvers take on the single block challenge, while national and mixed teams come together to compete in the double and multiple block challenge. Competitors are drawn to the cash prizes, the challenge of carving ice cream and the camaraderie. Steve Brice, a local volunteer and world ice art champion, thinks there is another motivating factor. Historically “of the hundred best ice sculptures on the planet, ninety-five were carved in Fairbanks”.
One of the newest volunteers and sculptors is Brian Carter from Circleville, Ohio. An accident at his home on January 2 brought him to Fairbanks to join the action. He had knocked over an empty toolbox. Being outside, a clear block of ice fell. As a self-taught professional chainsaw wood carver, he decided to put the block in a vice and carve a Christmas tree. Ice sculpting seemed like an amazing way and when he accidentally broke his sculpture, he took to Facebook to seek advice on ice making and his sculpting. From this position, he has been connected to the collection of local and outside volunteers and competitors who work tirelessly to bring the event to life. The park will open Feb. 14 and run through March 31, conditions permitting.
For Carter, he quickly dropped everything at home and flew to Fairbanks 11 days later after hooking up with Ice Alaska. For him, the opportunity to gain experience in ice carving was an easy choice. Already, he’s amazed at the similarities and differences in using chainsaws, chisels, and other tools to carve in this new medium of ice versus wood. After visiting Brice at his home and seeing his collection of self-designed ice axes, he described Brice as “the best” in the business. Having the chance to work alongside other renowned ice sculptors and learn from their expertise is what drives him to work on assembling the park every day.
“The big ice cream is here. The big blue ice is part of the magic. It’s what Seattle’s Sue McGrew describes as bringing her back to Fairbanks. As a professional sand sculptor who has competed and been commissioned by companies and individuals in the United States and around the world, her participation in the 2021 event brought her back as a second-year veteran this year. She’s done everything from laying slabs of ice for the walls to building frames for snow sculptures in the past week. She also plans to compete in the Single Block competition before leaving for another snow sculpting job in Colorado.
Not only did McGrew come back, but she encouraged two new volunteer carvers to come along. Emerson Schreiner works as a sand sculptor, portrait painter, and sandcastle instructor in Galveston, Texas, and has worked professionally with McGrew. After his first days of working in the park, his first impression, ice carving is much slower than working in the sand and it requires a lot of physical work. Kaila Bulfin is another McGrew recruit with just over a week at the park. She saw the event as something interesting and wanted to try new things in sculpture as an artist. Building the park has exposed her to new tools and techniques and she enjoys being organized. Bulfin commented, “It’s a wonderful mish-mash of Alaskan characters working together to make the magic happen.”
According to event coordinator Natalie Coxon, from Australia, ticket sales have already topped 280 for the park’s opening on Valentine’s Day. Tickets are available at icealaska.org. Her husband’s mining job at Pogo Mine brought the couple to Fairbanks in July 2020. After various volunteer jobs in Fairbanks, including selling tickets for the 2021 ice carving event, she moved into coordinating the event this year. She said she’s “always looking for local volunteers who want to have some skin in the game and it’s good for their community.”
After sculpting ice in competitions in more than six countries, professional sculptor Dave Smith, who operates Frost Lion Ice Plus, a sculpting business in Columbus, Ohio, said, “This is the mecca of big ice. . He’s been a hardcore entrant every year since 2017, with his daily work carving pumpkins and small blocks of ice (300 pounds) that have been featured in more than five food network competitions. “That’s where the big ice exists.” It’s this uniqueness that brings him and other carvers back year after year, not just to compete, but to build the event from the ground up.
From assembling the Fun Ice Park, a sponsorship ice wall, to teaching novice sculptors the art, to the competitions themselves and more, four hundred blocks of ice are transformed into works of art creating a unique event in Fairbanks.