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Delavan sculptor trading clay for snow

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Kayla Bunge
January 16, 2008
— Noel Winn is accustomed to working in clay, but this weekend he’ll trade the malleable medium for snow.

The 26-year-old artist will make his second appearance in the state snow sculpting competition, held during the Flake Out Festival in Wisconsin Dells.


“I’ve been doing things on such a small scale—microscopic stuff—that it feels good to open up by doing something large,” Winn said. “I like to work up a sweat on a project.”


In the vein of what he’s used to sculpting, Winn already has created a 1/12 scale clay model of the soon-to-be snow sculpture, a mermaid sitting atop a rock with sharks swimming in the water below. He’s calling it “Infested Waters.”


Winn and his teammates—brother Joe Winn and cousin John Hetzel—will start with an 8-by-6-foot block of hard-packed snow. They’ll use an ax and saws to chop out the large areas first, then they’ll use smaller tools to carve the rough shapes of the mermaid and the rock.


“By then my forearms will be sore,” Winn said with a laugh.


He said, last year—his first-ever attempt at snow sculpting—he and his teammates brought all wrong tools, making the initial chopping and cutting more laborious. They learned their lesson from watching the more experienced teams and have given some more thought to their sculpting strategy.


Winn has looked at the weather forecast, too, as that plays heavily into how he and his team will sculpt Friday and Saturday. It’s supposed to be pretty chilly, like last year, he said, so they already know how to adapt.


“I’ve heard horror stories about people having to use tarps (to protect their sculptures,” Winn said.


When he’s sculpting, Winn doesn’t notice much of what’s going on around him, he said. He tunes out the idle chatter of passersby and doesn’t feel it when his gloves turn to ice.


“You definitely get into a little bit of a zone about it,” Winn said.


By making an appearance in the state snow sculpting competition, Winn is carrying on a family legacy. His father, a freelance artist who died of brain cancer 10 years ago, had participated in the competition. He’s also reviving his father’s former business, Avenue Artworks.


Twenty-nine teams will compete this weekend for top honors—a chance to compete in the 2009 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship held in Lake Geneva. First-, second- and third-place winners are determined by the competitors, who consider creativity, technique and message when evaluating the sculptures. The People’s Choice is selected by visitors.


Winn said the competition is “a lot of fun,” but when the awards have been announced and the festival-goers head home, the sculptures are all that remain. And there’s no way to keep the art.


“I’m kind of disappointed,” Winn said. “It’s just going to melt away.”


If You Go

What: Flake Out Fest, featuring a snow sculpting competition.


Where: The sculptures will be located on La Crosse Street, between Eddy Street and Washington Avenue, in Wisconsin Dells.


When: Saturday and Sunday. Snow sculpting will take place from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Awards will be given at noon Sunday.


Information: Call the Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau at 1-800-223-3557, or log onto www.wisdells.com/flakeout.
Local teams to watch

Team: Noel Winn (captain), Joe Winn and John Hetzel.


From: Delavan.


Sculpture: “Infested Waters.”


Notes: This is the team’s second appearance in the competition. It took second place last year.


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Team: Daniel Povolo (captain), Dave Turner and Steve Van Hout.


From: Edgerton.


Sculpture: “Frozen in Time.”


Notes: Povolo was a member of the 2005 state champion team. He brings 6 years of snow sculpting experience to the competition.


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Team: Shayne Noller (captain), Geoffrey Simon and Ben May.


From: Elkhorn.


Sculpture: “Girhalf.”


Notes: The team brings a combined 14 years experience in snow sculpting to the competition.



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