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Behind the scenes at Ice Alaska

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August 2016

 Drive by the Ice Park and it looks quiet and empty.  But really, now is the time the folks are planning the next big thing for 2017!

Work is underway in the back lot at Ice Alaska to build a perminant sled dog kennel and staging area. We are happy to welcome Laura Alway and Calli Gavora of Golden Heart Dog Tours.  

Their target date is December 1 to begin operating sled dog rides through the Park area.  





2016 Walt Coty People Choice Awards

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Congratulations and well done to all the fantastic artists participating in this year's Ice Alaska and BP World Ice Art Championships.  

We've tallied all the visitor ballots and here are this year's Peoples Choice Winners:  


Walt Coty People Choice Award

     SB Classic Realistic—Team Mongolia, Lkhagvadorj Dorjsuren and Enkh-Erdene Ganbataar—each artist receives $150.00

     SB Classic Abstract—Tm Texas, Buddy Rasmussen and Dean DeMarias each artist receives $150.00

     MB Classic Realistic—Tm SC/AK, Edwin Hutchison, Angeleto Baban, Daniel Howell, Heather Brice.  each artist receives $100.00

     MB Classic Abstract—Tm OR/AK James Stugart, Robert Stugart, George Rosa, Kyle Nailing  each artist receives $100.00

Final Days with Ice

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This has been a fantastic year of ice art.  In all the 12 years that I've been volunteering for Ice Alaska, this is by far the largest field of exhibits that I can remember.  One aspect I enjoy, besides watching these fantastic sculptures being built, is how the elements affect them.  This week in particular, Break Up has arrived in Fairbanks, and with the return of our sun, we have some real heat with that light.  The effects of the the disintegrating ice can be very beautiful.  Below are some of what I find are the more interesting effects of Sunlight on Ice...

MultiBlock - Sea Snare - the Whales have become opaque from the morning sun.  

MultiBlock - HALO - the morning sunlight is causing pitting and ice-rot.  the effect reminds me of weathered patina on some old statue.  Any day now, I expect the wings to crumble off.

MultiBlock - A New Hope - This is amazing, the sword hasn't fallen!  You can see that both the sword and Luke's arms have some serious ice rot from direct sun exposure, but he's holding together.  

MultiBlock - Cool Beans - the upper quarter of this tree tall beanstalk is now totally opaque from  sunlight, and much of the detail work has melted away.  But this is another surprising exhibit that looks very delicate, yet is balanced well enough to remain standing.

SingleBlock - Mission On Mars - being located in the trees it is protected by much of the direct sunlight, yet there has been some melting, and the helmet on the astronaut is now almost perfectly clear.  

SingleBlock - The Beginning of Time - The combination of morning sun and warm ambient temperatures have made this piece almost perfectly clear.  Notice how the centerpiece has become so clear as to act as a lens and the young couple seen through the optics of the ice.  

SingleBlock - Hard to Handle - not too much direct sunlight on this piece through the trees.  Natural melting has caused the texture of the cat to photograph like molten metal.

SingleBlock - Concentration - This is another one of those exhibits that remains standing with only minimal sun damage.  The circus loops have since fallen off, and the woman's facial features and her fingers have melted a little, but the grace and illusion of life in this piece are still evident.  


Ice Park Behind the Scenes

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Here's a little behind the scenes of what it takes to prepare an Ice Park.  Alaska's weather has been a little unpredictable, and with some early warming temps, the Ice Park has been making adjustments to protect the sculptures so they will last through out the month.  Enter the IBEW and this year's new apprentices. 

Ice Alaska needed some new sun screens, so Mr. Dick Brickley purchased some poles, and Lineman Instructor, Mr. David McIsaac, brought the apprentices and they went to work setting poles.  A great opportunity for the Apprentices to get some practice in, and for Ice Alaska to have foundations set for more sun screens. 


Building Ice Park Week 7

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This is it!  The big push is on to finish the Alaska Airlines 2016 Kids Ice Park in time for opening on Monday February 22nd.  My weekly walk through the Park and there is so much activity. 

Dedicated to Felix Pedro

On the Pond, this weekend was a very large harvest.  Remember that first week's article, January 2nd, the crew were harvesting blocks of ice not much more than 20 inches thick and mostly white ice?  Well, they returned to that patch of pond, which has been growing premium clear blue ice. This weekend they cut and pulled the ice to be used for the Alaska Digital Printing - 2016 Single Block Classic, that begins February 29th.  In just 6 short weeks, without any accumulated snow to insulate and slow down freezing, some beautiful 27in (68cm) thick blocks were pulled from the pond!  And the white layer is less than 2in (5cm). 

Premium Ice 27" thick pulled for competition.

In the Kids Park, most of the slides are built.  The Fred Meyer Mega Slides are finished and the landing area is groomed.  Two small kids crawling mazes are finished, and this week work has begun on the annual large ice maze.  The University Fire Department stopped by this past week and sprayed the water for the annual Puppy Pond Ice Rink. 

Thursday, the Sourdough Cabin was dedicated in honor of Felix Pedro and his hometown, our Sister City, Fanano Italy.  Another large ice house located by the front entrance, I understand is for sale. 

In addition to the structures, many volunteers are arriving to create and repair sunshades, run lighting, inventorying and testing equipment, plowing the exhibit lots and walkways, working behind the scenes to make this event happen.    The newly renamed Ethel Stonemason Blvd is receiving many wonderful sculptures to dress the place up.

Small Kids Maze

Puppy Pond Ice Rink under construction

Ice House is for Sale


Building Ice Park Week 6

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WOW!  What a difference a week makes!

The Alaska Airlines 2016 Kids Ice Park is open in two weeks.  This week it is really starting to look like a park.  International and Local sculptors have been working round the clock to build some fantastic looking kids art and slides. 

We have two cabins this year.  The small cabin with the sourdough, and a larger house commemorating Felix Pedro and his birth place of Fanano Italy.  The Ice chapel is nearing completion.  A small kids maze has been constructed.  As noted last week, the Fred Meyer Mega Slide is complete. 


Other work being done, the lots for the Alaska Digital Printing 2016 Single Block Classic, were plowed out yesterday.  I found the Lighting Team busy inventorying supplies and color-gel-packs for the exhibit art.  Speaking of the Single Block competition, it begins Monday February 29th and we have a full field! Yep, you read that right - all 50 lots have been reserved by sculptors for the competition.  It's going to be big and exciting!

Harvest news: Connie reported in that after measuring the ice thickness they decided to delay harvest one more week to allow for more growth.  This next ice harvest will be blocks destined for the Single Block Competition.  So they want a good thickness for the sculptors to work with. 

Best regards and stay warm and safe out there!

Ross Hanson busy plowing out Single Block Sites

Ice Chapel is roughed out

Sourdough Cabin 


Building Ice Park Week 5

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The pace has really picked up at the Ice Park this week.  The Park opens in just 3 1/2 weeks on February 22, with the Alaska Airlines Kids Ice Park.  The Fred Meyer Mega Slide is finished, as are the Tula and Martha Commemorative Slides.  Meanwhile, the smaller slides are forming up, the Alyeska Ice Puppy Iceskating Rink has been roughed out, and the Ice Cabin is nearly finished.  

Ice Cabin under construction
Miss. Cloe gives us her wave of approval for our annual kid's train
One of the many kids slides.  Notice how this one makes good use of the white ice to define the mammoth

I'm pleased to report that as of today our Sculptor Support department has counted 116 Artists competing in the two main events.  Our Park holds 50 Single Block lots and 20 Multi Block lots, and as of today every lot will be taken.  

Mr. Mark Chapin, a regular competitor in both Single and Multi Block competitions, is taking on the role of managing the Verizon Youth Classic this year.  Mr. Sawamura, Shinichi has already arrived and he is our Director of the newly formed Sculptor Training and Mentorship program.

Sawamura, Shinichi has arrived at Ice Alaska.  Preparing his work station

The pond ice continues to thicken nicely.  Today the harvesting crew was pulling out blocks that were averaging a full 30in (76cm) thick, with 22 - 24in (55 - 60cm) of clear blue ice.  

Weekly ice harvesting continues on schedule 
Ice continues to grow today blocks are averaging a full 30" thick with 22" - 24" of clear ice

Building Ice Park Week 4

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A very bright and sunny day to work in the park today.  We are four weeks away from opening the park, artists have arrived from China, Mongolia, Russia and alongside some local Fairbanks talent, the 2016 Kids Ice Park is beginning to take shape. 

As mentioned a few weeks ago, the 2016 Ice Alaska theme is "Drive On!"  It's exciting to see how our artists interpret that theme into the interactive kids sculptures and ice slides.  So far we have camels and race cars and the annual Train Depot is being roughed out. 

Meanwhile, back on ponds, harvesting continues.  Today the ice appears to be nearly 28" (71cm) thick with about 20" (50cm) being clear ice. 

Looks like little Formula One Racers

Looks like we're going to have a camel drive in the park this year

Soon to be the annual Train Depot

I do believe we have a space ship getting ready to take off

Not sure yet what this is, but it's going to be big!

How thick is the ice today?  About 28 inches.

2016 Building Ice Park Week 3

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We're three weeks into the new year, and I'm happy to report that with the cooler temperatures, the ice is starting to get a little thicker.  My weekly stop by the Ice Park found the Harvesting Crew out working the back pond.  Eight hardy warm dressed folks working at about -13F (-25C), two of them operating forklifts making quick work of that plot of ice.  Like the ice that was pulled two weeks ago, this ice is destined for the Kids Park.  The fresh plot left behind will freeze over and the next round of harvesting should produce some nice clear blue competition ice. 

Ice Harvesting Crew working the back pond

Chainsaw is mounted in a custom skid for precise cutting of blocks

Hazards of pulling ice in sub-zero weather.  When the blocks are pulled from the water and meet the  cooler air, sometimes fractures form in the blocks.

Meanwhile, many of those thinner blocks we reported on a couple weeks ago have been moved into the kids park area for working into slides and maze building.  The giant ice slides are forming up nicely.  The carvers have completed several runs and the light strips are being threaded through the rails. 

Lighting strips are threaded through the rails of the ice slides

Tools of the train, a carver's chainsaw

Surprise!  You never know what might have floated into the pond before freezing.  

2016 Ice Park Build Week 2

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Remember last week the crew harvested a small section of pond?  This week work is beginning and some of that white ice is being laid as the foundation for the giant ice slides.  The An family from China, An, Di, An, Zhe, An, Qi Feng and An, Qi Ling, also from China, Wei, Tian Zuo, were found today beginning the work on the giant slides. 

Meanwhile, I discovered Keven Laughlin inside the office,  presenting his visions for some interactive and climbable kids ice works.  Can't wait to see what he's dreamed up for us this year!

As I exited the park I paused by the pond to see that crews have already sectioned off harvest plots and plowed snow off the surface to encourage deeper freezing.  There will be much more harvesting over the coming weeks, as the Ice Harvest Crew works that pond, like a farmer works a field, developing and producing the beautiful clear ice we've grown to appreciate over the years. 

First Harvest Ice is used for slides and foundations

Work begins on the giant ice slides

An, Di contours the side-wall of a slide

Blocks of ice are cut into sections and staged for placement