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Published: Sunday, 2/26/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Ice sliced into cool pieces of art during WinterFest competition

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
the blade/jeremy wadsworthProfessional ice sculptor Stephan Koch of Yorktown, Ind., cuts into the ice with a chain saw at the carving competition at WinterFest in Perrysburg. First place in Saturday's contest, and $1,200, went to Dan Rebholz of Chicago. the blade/jeremy wadsworthProfessional ice sculptor Stephan Koch of Yorktown, Ind., cuts into the ice with a chain saw at the carving competition at WinterFest in Perrysburg. First place in Saturday's contest, and $1,200, went to Dan Rebholz of Chicago.
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Ice carving is decidedly not a dainty activity.

It takes chain saws, electric drills of every size and power, drill bits large and small, angle grinders, die grinders, hammers and chisels, large handsaws whose teeth look like the belong in a shark's mouth, and any other tool that can shape ice.

And then there's the stamina needed to withstand wind gusts that upend protective canopies.

The result, on display at WinterFest 2012 in downtown Perrysburg, are delicate, gossamerlike, translucent sculptures of cars, animals, fantasy figures, a jockey riding a galloping horse, and even a $1 million bank note. OK, there is a bit of fantasy in that last sculpture as well.

For the professionals, there was a cool $4,000 total to compete for Saturday.

Brian Edwards, a country club chef from Columbus, said he jumped at the chance to come to Perrysburg to carve what he called his Defender of the Faith sculpture of a cross, angel wings, and a sword and shield.

"I like ice, and anytime I get to carve it, I'm going," he said while wielding a small electric chain saw at his stand along Louisiana Avenue.

Professional ice sculptor Brian Edwards of Columbus drills away at his ‘Defender of the Faith.’ He placed fifth out of five money winners, earning $125. This was his second time carving the piece. Professional ice sculptor Brian Edwards of Columbus drills away at his ‘Defender of the Faith.’ He placed fifth out of five money winners, earning $125. This was his second time carving the piece.
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Mr. Edwards, a retired Marine ("Everybody just calls me Tater"), said he picked up the art about a year ago. He studied under a Columbus outfit call Rock On Ice, which offers ice sculptures for every type of event and in practically any shape.

This is the second time he's carved his defender piece, although Mr. Edwards said he modified its shape a bit for the Perrysburg event. His creation placed fifth out of five money-winners, earning him $125. Ten professional ice carvers competed.

First place and $1,200 went to Dan Rebholz of Chicago.

Mike Liebenthal, one of the volunteer organizers, said the prize money was donated by the owners of Stella's Restaurant & Bar and Swig restaurant, both on Louisiana Avenue.

The event, while supported by the city, was 100 percent privately funded, he said.

The weather, at 31 degrees, cooperated in keeping the ice sculptures intact and did little to discourage visitors, he said.

"We had thousands [of people]" he said. "It exceeded our expectations."

Last year's ice sculpture event included only amateurs, but this year organizers decided to team up with the National Ice Carving Association to ratchet up interest and draw competitors from a wider area, he said.

Amateurs again were welcome this year, and the 10 individuals who entered competed for $400.

Amateurs had three hours to complete their work; the pros got an extra hour.

Carving generally begins with hunks of ice the size of a bale of straw carved into shape with electric chain saws. A paper diagram gives an idea of the design.

Multiple pieces are welded together with heat. Household irons heat aluminum sheets that are placed on the ice surface to begin melting, allowing a second piece to fuse to the first piece.

People browse the ice sculptures that line Louisiana Avenue during the WinterFest event. Along with the pieces from the competition, businesses commissioned dozens of other sculptures. People browse the ice sculptures that line Louisiana Avenue during the WinterFest event. Along with the pieces from the competition, businesses commissioned dozens of other sculptures.
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Handsaws, drills, chisels, and other shop tools took up the task of refining the three-dimensional designs. The array of tools used to refine a block of ice was familiar to Brennan McNulty, a culinary arts student from Oakland Community College in Farmington Hills, Mich.

Mr. McNulty said he abandoned a job in auto mechanics to learn cooking and ice carving.

He and two other members of the school's ice-carving team competed in the amateur division.

His colleague Ryse Richards, who gave up a career in architecture, said ice carving can be challenging and backbreaking. A healthy supply of ibuprofen is as much a necessity as a good chain saw, she said.

"You're holding up big power tools over your shoulders for three hours," she explained. "That will kill you."

Along with the competition sculptures, businesses commissioned dozens of sculptures that lined Louisiana Avenue.

The event was hosted by Downtown Perrysburg Inc. and the Ed Schmidt Automotive Group.

WinterFest included a beer tasting Friday night and a wine tasting in a tent-covered area Saturday.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: jsielicki@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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