Wingin’ It at the Amateur Snow Sculpting Contest

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by | Feb 7, 2018

For my first year doing a snow sculpture for the Vulcan Snow Park, open through Feb. 11, I didn’t want to be in danger of sawing the snow so fervently I fell off my ladder. Not that any of the 18 teams that competed for the 2018 state competition (Jan. 27-29) did, but still. Those champs were working with 8-foot tall blocks. For the Amateur Snow Sculpting Contest (a one-day whirlwind Feb. 3), my team, aptly named Wingin’ It, had a block that was a tame 6 feet tall, but even with that downscaled height, I needed a step stool to work on the top of what would be our baby dragon.

I’ll let you know now: We got last place out of four teams. (“Ice Age”‘s Scrat, Minnesota inventions and an octopus with a Rubik’s cube make for formidable competition.) But we did have a steady stream of passersby proclaiming it was a dragon hatching out of an egg before we told them, and we had some children even want to touch it (we let them, of course), so I think we can count it as a win in the books.

From left to right, Robert McLernon, Lianna Matt, the dragon (named Toby) and Cassie Bauman. Unfortunately, you can't see the detailing of the wings or the spine spikes, but use your imagination.Jeff Matt

I know we’ve mentioned the Vulcan Snow Park (part of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival) and told you to check out the snow sculptures, but let me tell you, it’s a whole lot of fun making them, too.

Robert McLernon, Cassie Bauman and I started the day at almost 8 a.m. sharp, and right from the get-go, the Vulcan Snow Park volunteers spoiled us with coffee, doughnuts and other refreshments before we got to work. At 18º and no wind, the weather was perfect, and although I scrooge-ishly grumbled that the gently falling snow would ruin our carved lines, we couldn’t have asked for a better day to be outside.

As we found out, you can’t just dig out the packed snow, nor can you peel it like you would a linoleum block. Smarter teams than we brought saws, but Bauman and I ended up doing a lot of hacking until McLernon showed up and proved to be a god with the ice scraper, resulting in huge cleared out spaces and clean edges. Pat Mogren, one of the lead volunteers at the Snow Park, came by multiple times with metal curry combs and scrapers to arm us in our artistic plight—they proved to be a necessity for the egg shape and dragon anatomy—and Kendra Myers, the Minnesota State Snow Sculpting Competition coordinator was always nearby with encouragement, too.

By the time noon rolled around, I was in that intense, one-track frame of mind where my friends can’t tell if I’m having fun anymore and I don’t want to break for the generously provided lunch because, hello, we have a sculpture to make. Still, a sloppy joe, chips, vegetables and a water bottle later (again, all provided by the Snow Park) I ended up taking an extra five-minute break with McLernon to look at the State Competition sculptures while Bauman continued to work on detailing more of the wings, arms and head. What an overachiever she is.

In the end, we finished our baby dragon at about 3:15 p.m. with 45 minutes to spare and, at least for me, a nice pile of soaking wet mittens. I had lost count of the adults pointing out the dragon to their kids (each time it happened, my heart sang a little bit), and I felt very flattered by the adults who told us good job and who jokingly asked whether the three of us were University of Minnesota art majors.

It was a good day full of simple pleasures: fresh air, creativity, exercise and really, really nice people. Myers, Mogren and the other volunteers are some of the most easy going and kind-hearted people you’ll meet, and they know how to immediately make you feel at home. Everyone was excited to be there and to help out at the Snow Park, and the day was filled with people looking at the sculptures, giving it a try themselves (Mogren had put out the rest of his metal curry comb supply and miniature cubic foot blocks for people) and going down the Vulcans’ giant snow slide.

As Winter Carnival lore goes, the Vulcans bring in spring, and I can’t think of any better way to end winter than stopping by the Vulcan Snow Park and checking out the sculptures and snowtastic activities. And hey, if you’re around next year, sign up for the Amateur Snow Sculpting Contest. I know I will.  

Check out the winners of the Minnesota State Snow Sculpting Competition:

Vulcan Snow Park Events

This year, the Vulcans have already hosted annual events such as the snow stomp, Vulcan Fun Day and inland polar plunge. With the extra week of Winter Carnival this year, though, there’s an extra week of Vulcan Snow Park. Check out these upcoming events:

  • Snow Sculpture Viewing through Feb. 11
  • Giant Snow Slide through Feb. 11
  • Tow Up Throw Down Professional/Amateur Invitational, Feb. 10 (think a bunny hill with bungee propulsion)
  • Barstool Ski Races, Feb 9 & 11 (amazingly, this is exactly how it sounds)
  • Lawn Mower Races (on ice!), Feb. 10 & 11

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