Snow sculptures are highlight of Lake Geneva’s Winterfest

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

— It’s like melting but different.

Lines and curves emerged from what had been 9-foot cylinders of packed snow. Instead of losing their shapes as blocks of snow or ice usually might on a sunny winter afternoon, these pieces became more and more detailed.

Dragons, birds, fish and a tank—among other things—were slowly coming into being Friday afternoon at Riviera Park on the shore of Geneva Lake. The park is the site of the annual U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition. The competition is the highlight of Winterfest, which continues today and Sunday in the city.

Fifteen teams of three people each used horse brushes, wallpaper scrapers and saws to cut and shape the snow. The process sounded like a parking lot full of people scraping frosty windshields. Despite the noise, chunks of packed snow metamorphosed into delicate faces, intricate tree branches and a tall coral reef.

The brisk weather offered excellent carving conditions, said Jason Anhorn, an Eau Claire artist.

“It’s perfect,” Anhorn said ofthe weather. “We can get the most minute details.”

Each team started with a 9-foot cylinder of packed snow. The snow was hauled in from the ski slopes of Grand Geneva Resort and packed into a form.

Sculpting started Wednesday and was expected to go late into the night Friday, said Mike Nehs of Waukesha. He and his two teammates on Team Snowblind expected to be working until midnight Friday and starting again by 7 a.m. this morning.

Teams must stop sculpting at 11 a.m. when judging starts.

By late afternoon Friday, Nehs had icicles in his mustache.

“We’re beyond being cold,” he said.

Team Snowblind’s piece, “Migration,” is a delicate replication of a flock of birds bursting into flight. A 12-inch model of the piece had as much open space as sculpting material. The base of the design is long but not wide, as a curved fence would be.

Team Snowblind did not carve a practice piece before the competition, Nehs said. “This is a totally original piece,” Nehs said. “This is the first time it’s ever been created.”

The contestants also are the judges. Judging criteria includes creativity, technique and message.

Nehs said the best snow sculptures are those that are creative rather than perfectly formed.

“The most important thing is the visual impression it makes on the audience,” Nehs said.

Despite the cold, the afternoon sun had an impact on some of the sculptures, said Krista Gustafson of Rockford, Ill. She and her teammates, the Snowbabes, were making an underwater scene of tropical fish swimming about a coral reef.

The sculpture was outside the shade of the Riviera as the afternoon sun went down over Geneva Lake. On a warmer day, the sun would have been a problem, Gustafson said.

On Friday, the sunlight wasn’t warm enough to melt the sculpture, but it was crystallizing the western side of it, Gustafson pointed out.

“They don’t last forever,” she said.

If you go

What: Winterfest

When: Through 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Riviera Park, 812 Wrigley Drive, and Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva. Shops and restaurants in downtown Lake Geneva will have specials and activities all weekend.

Cost: Admission is free and open to the public.

At the Riviera: At 11 a.m. today, artists must put down their tools in the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition. Voting in the People’s Choice category is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The winners will be announced at 3 p.m. Carriage rides, children’s sculpting and helicopter rides also will be available outdoors.

Music, magic shows, food, vendor booths and shopping will be featured inside the Riviera Ballroom from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

The snow sculptures will remain on display Sunday.

Parking: In addition to stalls downtown, a shuttle will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Sunday between Petco, 200 Edwards Blvd., and Mill Creek Hotel, 123 Center St., in downtown Lake Geneva.

At the Grand Geneva: The annual winter carnival will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. Activities will include ski school demonstrations, a toboggan competition, silly slalom events, human bowling and a water balloon launch. A fireworks display is scheduled for 8 p.m.

To learn more: Visit lakegenevawi.com.

For photos of the winners and the other sculptures in the competition, see HERE.

Last updated: 8:14 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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