Zehnder’s winter sculptors battle thaw

A tent shielded intricate ice carvings from the sun. PHOTO/KATIE VALLEY

OU News Bureau

Snow and ice sculptures struggled to stay standing when weekend temperatures reached the 50s at Frankenmuth’s 27th annual Snowfest.

The event, which takes place late in January, features ice and snow carving competitions, pony rides, petting zoos and fireworks.

The average January temperature in Frankenmuth is about 30 degrees, according to US Climate Data.  This year’s above-freezing weather has not stopped the sculptors from working on their pieces.

Scott Triplett and his partners built a larger-than-life sloth sculpture. PHOTO/KATIE VALLEY

Scott Triplett and partners William Brown and Randy Tackett started their sculpture the Tuesday before the festival and have carved for about eight hours a day. Triplett said the weekend’s warm conditions made them change their work approach.

“We’re lucky because we’re in a spot where we don’t get a whole lot of sun — just kind of the luck of the draw — so we’ve made some adjustments to our plan to kind of keep things more upright and not where they’re going to bow out,” he said. “We’re trying to not have it fall down.”

Triplett’s warmest experience in snow sculpting was an event with 67-degree, sunny weather where his piece toppled over soon after it was finished. Triplett said things like this taught him how to adapt to the heat.

“It’s gotten warm, so any detail that you put into it is going to kind of wash out,” he said, “so we’re just kind of slowly working our way around and just trying to finish it at the last moment because it is so warm.”

Efforts to stop snow exhibitions from melting in high temperatures are futile, according to Mark Mishler, who has been carving since 1987. He said sculptors can try to shield their works from the elements with tarps, which mainly help keep the wind from touching them.

“The wind is what tears them up, not being that it’s warm. It’s the wind that pushes it back into the water form,” Mishler said. “The wind is all we’re worried about for right now.”

Many of the snow carvings stayed upright, but some ice carvings that lined the sidewalks of Frankenmuth crumbled under the heat.

Wendy Terry, Macomb Ice Carving Team member, begins her piece for the Collegiate Ice Carving Under the Stars competition. PHOTO/KATIE VALLEY

Macomb Ice Carving Team member Wendy Terry said ice carvings are different from sculpted snow — the ice melts faster and “fractures” if it’s not cold enough.

“It’s worse than the melting,” she said. “You’ll see as you walk through town a lot of the sculptures are cracked like that. It’s from the heat. There’s a lot bigger chance that your piece will break while you’re carving it when it’s warm, so it makes it a lot harder.”

Passersby gathered to admire the ice and snow sculptures scattered along the streets. The high temperatures and lack of snow did not stop people from attending, like Heather Williams and her family, who came for their sixth year in a row.

“I think it helps the attendance, too, because it’s nice,” Williams said. “It’s not so cold that you can’t go out and enjoy it, and you don’t have to be all bundled up.”

Second-time festivalgoer Crystal White said although she felt bad seeing crumbling sculptures that people spent hours creating, she still enjoyed the event.

Crowds often gathered during carving competitions and marveled at the works together. White said she values the level of community present during Zehnder’s Snowfest.

“I love that there’s something at this time of year where people can all get out and all be together,” she said. “Even though this weather is nice, if it were cold they’d still have it, so it’s just cool that they have a time set aside for that.”

A snow sculpture struggles to remain upright in the 50-degree temperatures. PHOTO/KATIE VALLEY




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Posted by on Jan 28 2018. Filed under Featured article, Michigan. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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