The Transient Beauty and Whimsy of Snow Sculpture
Each winter, Rockford hosts the annual Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition. This is the third largest public festival held in our city, and it attracts nearly 100,000 visits every year. There are 35 teams competing in this event, and it is divided into a professional competition and a school competition. Sculpting begins on a Wednesday, and must be completed by the following Saturday morning.
And about that school competition...last week, after most of the schools in Northern Illinois cancelled classes due to cold weather, I wrote a post bemoaning how "wimpy" Americans have become when it pertains to weather. The young people who create snow sculptures are certainly not wimps. Friday, the last full day competitors can work on their project, the thermometer never rose above 2F. Even though classes were cancelled, students from schools throughout Northern Illinois were busy at work, remaining outside for hours as they completed their sculptures. I couldn't have been prouder.
Preparations for the competition begin about a week before the event. Snow is collected from the huge piles at the airport where the runways have been cleared by snow plows. Dump trucks carry the snow to our beautiful Sinnissippi Park, where frontend loaders deposit it into wooden frames that are 6'x6'x10'. Park district employees manually compact the snow inside the frames by filling in any visible gaps, and then jumping up and down on top of it all. The frames are removed the morning that sculpting begins.
There are only three rules to snow sculpting. First, no power tools are allowed. All work must be done with hand tools such as chisels and hand saws. Second, no artificial additives are allowed, such as color enhancements. Third, the sculptures must hold their own weight. No reinforcing materials may be used to prevent collapse.
In the title of this post, I make reference to the "transient" nature of snow sculpting. Certainly, those who create these pieces do it out of love for the creative act itself as much as for the finished product. It is the nature of the medium that snow sculptures rarely last more than a few weeks. Last year we experienced a mid-winter thaw on the very day that the works were to be completed. Within two days the amazing creations had deteriorated into little more than piles of slushy chunks of ice. Even during the good years -- and this year may be one of them -- the sculptures only remain viable for three or four weeks at most. Whatever their lifespan, these are amazing creations. Take a look at them and I think you'll agree.
High School Competition
Alice inWonderland's Iced Tea Party
Hippoticelli's "Girth of Venus" (my favorite title of all the entrants)
Conflict of Self
So...How 'Bout that Global Warming?
There are a few entries which do not appear on this post. My apologies for the omissions. The photos I shot with my simple camera and amateur photography skills did not do justice to the artists whose sculptures I did not include.