Go for the cold! Local ice carvers, snow sculptors compete at St. Paul Winter CarnivalNo one has ever won the St. Paul Winter Carnival multi-block ice carving competition five years in a row.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
No one has ever won the St. Paul Winter Carnival multi-block ice carving competition five years in a row.
Not yet, anyway.
Greg Schmotzer, Red Wing native and chef at Treasure Island Resort & Casino, has taken home first-place honors four years in a row.
He's going for the … crystal. And this year, Schmotzer is without the assistance of his carving partner, Chris Swarbrick of Ice Occasions in Ellsworth.
Swarbrick is doing ice carvings for the Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, instead.
That leaves Schmotzer with just a lift-and-carry helper, Tom Klug. He also works at Treasure Island — which is sponsoring the team this year. Schmotzer expects to do all the carving himself.
He'll have two days to transform 20 300-pound blocks of ice in Rice Park into an artistic creation, which means Schmotzer will pretty much work around the clock, from Thursday morning to Saturday morning.
Then on Sunday, he'll be back competing in the single-block competition. For both contests, he can use all sorts of tools, including power saws and grinders.
The big sculpture will have a different look than last year's winning entry, which consisted of three unicorns holding up an ice globe. The 2010 entry will be less fanciful but still show a sense of humor.
"This year it'll be a mountain lion climbing over rocks, looking down at two bighorn sheep butting heads," Schmotzer said. He calls it "The Loser Is Lunch."
Already Schmotzer has had to make some revisions to his design, based on the weather forecast. A warming trend is supposed to continue this weekend.
"I had the ice hanging out" quite a ways, "defying gravity," he explained. That element and the stances of the animals will be changed a little so they can better handle the heat.
"It's supposed to be up in the 30s Saturday. That's not good," Schmotzer said, adding, "I'm not looking forward to the rain" that's in the forecast. He'd like to see temperatures of 15 to 25 degrees with cloudy skies.
On Sunday, when the forecast includes a chance of snow, he'll be carving an underwater scene for the single-block contest. "Fishville" will have crappies in weeds.
Schmotzer has been competing at the winter carnival since 2000, and placing every year in multi-block. He's won the division at least five times, and also has about four wins on single block.
Over at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, another local artist who specializes in winter wonders will be at work sculpting an 8 by 8 by 8-foot block of packed snow.
Tim Trost from rural Cannon Falls — who also has been a contest winner several times over the past 20-plus years — will be back with his team, Jared Trost and Jim Krueger of East Bethel, Minn. Tim Trost has advanced to national competition four times.
They'll be getting together on Thursday to finalize a design, he said. The three usually take turns coming up with the design, including last year's giant morel mushrooms, but this year it'll be a team effort. He's leaning toward an aquatic theme, but more than likely, he said, "We're going to wing it," and try to create something that spectators enjoy.
Snow sculptures can be built up as high as the team can manage, Trost said, but the footprint cannot exceed 12 feet. They can only use hand tools, no power tools and no supports of any kind. Sculpting snow is vastly different than carving ice, he noted.
"The weather doesn't sound like it's going to cooperate," Trost said.
But on the plus side, he added, if the weather is nice more people are likely to come out and check out the Vulcan Crewe events. In addition to the snow sculptures and a snow maze, there will be a hot air balloon liftoff at the fairgrounds at 8 a.m. Saturday, followed by the Vulcan Coming Out Party at 10 a.m. On Sunday, it'll be Vulcan Fun Day in the Snow from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Winter Carnival runs Jan. 21-31.