Visitors watch professional carver Robert Childers of Illinois as he works on his sculpture during the competition at the Toledo Zoo. The works can be viewed as long as the weather holds.
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Armed with a blow torch and iron, Brad Teaderman melted a little bit of ice here and a little more there, techniques necessary in turning a 300-pound block of ice into a fairy princess.
He was pressed for time - the 12 competitors had just three hours in which to work - so he stopped only briefly to take a step back and look at his creation. Then it was down with the heating tools and back in hand with a small chainsaw.
Mr. Teaderman of Perrysburg was among the professional ice carvers who competed this weekend in the Toledo Zoo's fifth annual Ice Fest. The wintry event is part of Frozentoesen, which runs through January and February and is geared to attract visitors to the zoo during the colder months.
"The snow hasn't kept them away," said Mr. Teaderman as visitors crowded around sculptors in the zoo's Nairobi Pavilion. "This place is perfect for a competition like this."
The professionals battled yesterday afternoon as amateurs and high school students took part in their own demonstrations throughout the weekend.
First-place winner of the professional competition was Ted Wakar of Canton, Mich., who carved a six-foot gazelle with spiraling horns. Second place went to John Merucci of Marshall, Mich., who carved a man balanced precariously on a high-wire unicycle, and third place went to Matt Williams of Cincinnati, who carved a five-foot frozen sea horse.
Although the buzzing chainsaws drew visitors to the center of activity, the zoo had much more to offer for the half-price admission. A trail of small ice sculptures led visitors to the competition, past the wolf exhibit and Arctic Encounter, where the zoo's seals and polar bears enjoyed the icy waters. It was on the way to the pavilion that Amanda Morris, 6, of Oregon, found her favorite sculpture, a little mermaid. At the zoo with her parents and little sister, Emily, 1, the youngster was bundled up and ready for a day of ice viewing with, of course, some stops to see the animals.
"I saw the wolves and the polar bears. They looked nice and warm," Amanda said.
Tracy Michael and Tim Steils had more professional reasons for being at the zoo yesterday. An art teacher for Ida Public Schools in Monroe County and a ceramicist, Ms. Michael said she was fascinated by an artwork so in large scale.
"To think of a block of ice and carve it into something three-dimensional is amazing to me," said Ms. Michael of Lambertville. "And to think that something as simple as an iron is used to make intricate art."
Mr. Steils of Petersburg, Mich., is a zoo member and so had seen the ice sculptures come together in years past. Because he works with cryogenic liquid - liquids reaching 300 and 400 degrees below zero - as an installer of oxygen systems in hospitals, Mr. Steils said he felt right at home among the ice chips and frosty temperatures.
And he wanted to share with Ms. Michael an artwork that comes together without the use of a kiln.
"I'm just a supporter," he said. "They've got a good program here."
Visitors can view all the sculptures as long as the weather keeps them intact. Also scheduled for today is an Ice Fest Brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the African Lodge. Reservations are recommended by calling 419-385-5721, Ext. 3144.
Contact Erica Blake at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6076.