“She looked at him with an icy stare and he knew he was in trouble.” “He said the words in an icy calm.” “A shiver ran down his spine like ice spreading across a windowpane.”
There’s something quite chilling about ice. Usually the connotation is a negative one. Our natural thermostat is set to 98.6 degrees and any temperature below freezing is hazardous to our health. Maybe that’s why.
But ice can be nice, too. An ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day. A cooler full of ice will keep your food from spoiling. Ice artwork.
Yes, that’s right, ice artwork. Four years ago, the company I was working for sent me to Fairbanks for the winter. That’s Fairbanks, Alaska, you understand. For the winter.
The thing about Fairbanks in winter is… it’s cold, it’s dark, it’s boring. I had to find some way to entertain myself, and I knew no one there except the two people I worked with. The theater in town had more movie screens than any I’d ever been to before, but there are only so many movies you can watch.
So when the BP World Ice Art Championships came to town in February, I was intrigued and bought a season pass. What’s that? You don’t understand why I had to get a season pass? Well, the events last for about a month. It takes at least that long, you see, when there are so many different ways to create ice art. There’s the single block competition, the multi-block one, the amateur exhibition (you are correct in thinking that means there are actually professional ice sculptors), and the youth awards.
Ice Alaska has been hosting the competition for 25 years, though the history of the event dates back to the 1930’s. Each year 1000 blocks of ice are cut out of pond ice. The block dimensions vary from 5 x 8 feet square for the single block sculptures to 4×6 feet square for the multi-block ones, which are comprised of twelve blocks of ice each and will weigh up to 20 tons and could tower over 25 feet in height when completed.
The Ice Park is like a regular fun park without the roller coaster rides. There’s a maze, an ice rink, ice sculpting classes, and hot dogs. There’s a kiddie park with ice sculptures the kids can climb on, slide down, and pretend to ride. One ice castle even held up to a battle or two by the kiddies.
If you visit during the few hours of daylight each day, you would be amazed at the microscopic detail you can see in each face, fin, and feather. At night, the glass-like ice glows with multi-colored lights that give the shapes an ethereal beauty. Contestants come from all over the world to vie for prizes, and so do the sightseers.
I would not say that I loved my six months of winter in Fairbanks. I wouldn’t even say I’d be willing to go back there to work again, no matter how much they paid me. I would, however, be tempted to go for just a few days, at least during February or March to enjoy some of these marvelous creations.
Now that she’s not freezing her buns off in Alaska, Debra R. Borys is back in Illinois getting the word out about the release of the third book in her Street Stories series, Box of Rain. The first two books, Painted Black and Bend Me, Shape Me were released in 2012 and 2013. In addition to a willingness to brave the icy north, she also spent over fifteen years volunteering with homeless organizations in Chicago and Seattle, which still serve as the inspiration for her novels.