For the first time in 29 years, Ice Alaska will not be hosting an ice-carving event. The nonprofit’s board of directors made it official Wednesday by canceling plans for a smaller youth carving event the organization had hoped to stage in March. The organization will instead focus on bringing back the World Ice Art Championships next year.
Ice Alaska board President Hank Bartos says his fellow board members had no choice but to cancel the Bill Stroecker Foundation Youth Amateur Classic, an ice-carving event they’d hoped to hold in lieu of the World Ice Art Championships, which the board canceled late last year due to a loss of sponsors and other financial woes. But Bartos says the effort to stage the alternate event also fizzled.
“The reason we’re not having the event this year is because of lack of funding, lack of support,” he said.
Board members said during a meeting Wednesday they knew it would be a longshot to organize the Stroecker Youth Amateur Classic on short notice during January. They also agreed the public may have soured on the event, because of disputes between Ice Alaska and Dick and Hoa Brickley, the former organizers of the World Ice Art Championships and owners of George Horner Ice Park, where the event has been held since 2011.
Bartos says the allegations of wrongdoing and threats of lawsuits between the two parties contributed to Ice Alaska’s failure to meet its goal of raising $50,000 by the Jan. 31 deadline.
“It is disappointing,” he said. “It was disappointing to me, especially, because I wanted to see it go on.”
It’s also a disappointment to the fans of the annual ice-carving championships who come from around the world to marvel at the elaborately sculpted and illuminated blocks of ice. And it’s disappointing to the business community that’s benefited from the injection of tourist dollars during an otherwise slow time of year.
-- Hank Bartos,
The Brickleys reportedly intend to stage their own ice-carving event in March.
Steve Brice, an ice-carver and Ice Alaska member who attended Wednesday’s meeting, says that event probably contributed to the lack of donations for the Stroecker Youth Amateur Classic.
“Right now, the community is confused,” Brice said. “They don’t really know what’s going on.”
But, says board treasurer Steff Clymer, the Brickleys’ event won’t be called the World Ice Art Championships, because Ice Alaska now owns the rights to that title.
“The name belongs to us,” Clymer said. “We’ve gone after it, we’ve sealed that down, and we want to keep it.”
Ice Alaska intends to use the name again next year, when the organization plans to bring the event back and stage it at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds. Bartos and the other board members all agreed that’s now their top priority.
“We’re a new organization,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good, spirited people that want to get behind it and want to make it happen. And I think the community will be proud of what this organization does.”
Bartos figures it’ll cost at least a half-million dollars to stage the ice art championships. He says board members are already working on plans to recruit volunteers and line up sponsors.
“It’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of support,” he said, “and we have got to have the community behind it.”
Board members agreed Wednesday that building community support will depend largely on ensuring the public knows that Ice Alaska is determined to put the controversy behind it and to operate transparently from now on.
Editor's note: Donations to Ice Alaska may be made through its PayPal account accessible from this page on the organization's website.