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World Ice Art Championships 2019

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The World Ice Art Championships ice-sculpture festival opens today at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds, bringing dozens of international carvers to Fairbanks for a month of competitions.

The non-profit organization, Ice Alaska, is bringing the festival back after missing a year to reorganize and raise donations. This is the first time the event is at the Fairgrounds, after six years on private property at the end of Phillips Field Road, and an annual event since 1990.

There was plenty of cutting ice with chain saws, moving it with huge forklifts, and scraping pretty designs into it at the Ice Park.

“I like this park, a lot better than the old one, everything is a little tighter together. It looks a little bit more homey. It’s not so wide open. We’re all goin’ to be back in the trees, carving, which is going to be a nice ambiance.”

That’s Daniel Howel, from South Carolina. This is the third year he has come for the competition, but he was also participating in the “boot camp” – a teaching institute Ice Alaska opened to carvers both amateur and experienced. He and Jake Binderseck were pouring water through a fire hose to make an ice rink.

The kids’ park is ready, and carvers can turn their attention now to the three professional competitions, which are timed. The Single-block carving in which one person has 36 hours to make a sculpture, is open to 20 people. The two-block contest is for teams of two people to make a sculpture in 60 hours, and Multi Block Classic lets teams of four people have five days to make the huge artworks the event is known for. That’s why sculptors come from all over the world.

“Day by day they’re all going to start trickling in, and I can’t wait to see my ice brethren and sisters comin’ in here soon.”

Deedee Dalen is coordinating a lot of logistics. She says the carvers a looking for the next generation with a Youth Ice Sculpting class.

“Then over spring break, we have a youth classic, and we’re hopin’ to get some youth that want to learn how work with ice and learn that medium.”

Joan Foote and Ross Hansen returned to warm Fairbanks from South Dakota to volunteer for a few months.

“I coordinate the sculptor support office, which means that we register everybody, and house them or get housing for them.”

“One thing she does do that not many can do, she learns how to pronounce all the names. When you have Mongolians come over here, and they have names with 12 consonants and one vowel, it’s kind of hard to pronounce.”

Mongolia is one of about 90 countries that have been represented in past competitions. Dalen says the artists’ calendar is jammed between now and middle March and what the park needs now is volunteer support.

“For the gift shop, for ticketing, for first aid, for security. The competition ends March 2nd, but weather permitting, we’ll open ‘til the end of March, so we have potential 46 days of volunteer coverage that we need.”