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Winners named at snow sculpting championships

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Kayla Bunge
February 3, 2008
— A biting wind blew off a frozen Geneva Lake as the sun struggled to emerge from a thick blanket of clouds.

And yet, Tom Noll was sweating.


“If you’re cold, you’re not working hard enough,” he said, wiping his brow.


This week, veteran snow sculptors from across the country descended on Riviera Park to compete in the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship. They labored for three days and three nights to transform blocks of snow into works of art.


Noll and teammates John Dietz and Neal Vogt—better known as Snowblind—made their first appearance on the national stage. The trio from Waukesha aimed for originality—and something that would evoke laughter from the thousands who come to see the snow sculptures, the centerpiece of Winterfest.


Their sculpture, aptly named “Till the Fat Lady Swings,” depicted a rather large, jovial woman squeezed onto a rope swing held up between two tree trunks. A pair of squirrels, one from above and one from below, sought a bag of peanuts in her lap.


Vogt said detail is key to an eye-popping sculpture.


But how do they go from a 3-ton, 10-foot-high block of snow to that?


“You try and envision where everything is and just start hacking away,” Vogt said. “And you try not to wreck something you shouldn’t.”


Teams begin with drawings and scale models, which they use as guides to carve out a rough shape. Then using what Vogt calls “made up tools,” they saw, file and sand the snow to create the detail and bring their sculptures to life.


Dietz said the camaraderie among the teams is what sets snow sculpting apart from other “sports.”


“Everybody borrows and lends tools to each other,” he said. “They’ll give you whatever you need to beat them.”


The competition is “extremely tough,” said Krista Gustafson of the Snowbabes of Rockford, Ill., a team making its tenth appearance at the national contest.


First-, second- and third-place winners are determined by the teams themselves, which consider creativity, technique and message when evaluating the sculptures.


The People’s Choice award is selected by event visitors while the Spirit Award, determined by the previous year’s recipient, is given to the team that best represents the ideals of the competition.


But it’s not about the accolades, Gustafson said.


“It’s coming together as a family and creating such beautiful art,” she said. “Even if our sculptures fell over, we’d still have fun.”


AWARD WINNERS


Results of the 13th annual U.S. Snow Sculpting Championship


First place: “Shark’s Lair” by Team Minnesota (Kelley J. Casey, Paul Diekoff Jr., David White)


Second place: “You’ve Gotta Meditate to Levitate” by Team Alaska (Paul Harris, Patrick Boonstra, Sarah Wallner)


Third place: “Till the Fat Lady Swings” by Team Wisconsin (Neal Vogt, Tom Noll, Jon Dietz)


People’s Choice: “Till the Fat Lady Swings”


Spirit Award: “Promised Peace” by Team Wyoming (Erika Haroldson, Mike Haroldson, Diane Haroldson)


IF YOU GO


Winterfest in Lake Geneva continues today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sculptures will be on display in Riviera Park until Mother Nature melts them away.



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