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Reorganized Ice Alaska Scrambles to Stage Alternative to World Ice Art Championship

Ice Alaska

The World Ice Art Championships will not be held in Fairbanks this winter. But officials with the organization that’s been running the annual ice-carving competition for the past 28 years say they’ve reorganized and are working on a smaller event this year for young ice sculptors. Members of the Ice Art board of directors say they’ll announce next week whether the organization will be able to stage the event in March.

Ice Alaska board members have 45 days to organize the Bill Stroecker Foundation Youth Amateur Classic, the event they hope to hold in lieu of the World Ice Art Championships. And they have to raise $50,000 to pull it off.

“We’re very compressed on time,” says board Treasurer Steff Clymer.

She says board members hope to raise the $50,000 through donations. They already got $15,000 from the Stroecker Foundation, and another $3,500 from Fairbanks Memorial Hospital’s emergency room physicians. And she says GCI has given cash and in-kind donations like cellphones and internet support.

“We’ve got to have the community’s help in order to do this, in order to keep the World Ice Art Championships alive,” Clymer said. “It’s a world-renowned event. It’s the largest ice-carving contest in the world.”

Board President Hank Bartos told the board in Wednesday’s meeting that if all goes well, the venue for this year’s event will be the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds – not the George Horner Ice Park, where the championships were held in recent years.

“The fairgrounds has the warm buildings,” he said. “They have operational bathrooms, instead of porta-potties. They have some warm-up areas, food-service areas…”

Credit Tim Ellis/KUAC
Members of the Ice Alaska board of directors talk with sculptors who called-in to Wednesday's meeting at board President Hank Bartos' business office on Gillam Way. The members include, from left, Steff Clymer; Gisela Young; DeeDee Dalen; Bartos, at head of table; Rhonda Konicki; Bruce Foote; Jeffrey Anderson; Tony Lopez; and Nicki Lopez.

Bartos says the youth-focused event would give fans of the ice-art championships – and the dozens of ice sculptors, many of whom come from other countries – a sort of “bridge” event to keep the championships alive.

“We don’t want to lose a year where it’s just completely shut down, and nothing happens,” he said. “We have to have a bridge so that we can get to a bigger event next year.”

Board members agreed it’ll be a daunting task. And they agreed that if they decide over the next few days it’s just not do-able, they’ll let the public know in an announcement next Wednesday, Jan. 31.

“Next week is a go/no-go decision,” Bartos said.

He said in an interview after the meeting that board members are focusing on this year’s event and the ongoing reorganization under way at Ice Alaska that began with the retirement last fall of Dick and Hoa Brickley. They’re the owners of the Horner Ice Park property and the driving force behind the annual event. Their departure was one of a series of setbacks that included a 2016 fire that destroyed a building at the park used for the championships and the loss of BP and other big sponsors after last year’s event.

The latest setback came in November, when the board announced it did not have the resources to hold the 29th annual championship this year.

“So the focus right now is on the event,” he said, “and making the event happen.”

Bartos and Clymer say the board isn’t inclined right now to act on recent demands by ice-art championship supporters for lawsuits and investigations of the Brickleys’ business deals involving state grants and land sales prior to their retirement. Board Secretary Rhonda Konicki says those allegations are being reviewed. Clymer emphasizes that Ice Alaska is now an all-volunteer nonprofit, with an almost all-new board.

“Everybody sitting here at this table tonight is a new board member, with the exception of Hank and I,” she said. “And we’re the ones that carried it forward. We have all-new books. It’s a completely new group. And we’re starting over.”

Bartos says he’ll offer more information on Ice Alaska’s plans in Tuesday’s Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce meeting. 

Editor's note: Donations to Ice Alaska may be made through its PayPal account accessible from this page on the organization's website. 

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.