The Ice Fest Cometh




Sharpen those chain saws, the contest is about to begin.Hopefully, the day will be just right. Not too hot, not too cold. In the 20s is best, says Wayne Miller, who is helping to organize the ice sculpture contest at the upcoming Ice & Snow Festival in Keene. If it's too warm, the ice melts, he says. If it's too cold, the ice gets brittle.

Whatever the temperature on Feb. 6, Miller and perhaps a dozen others amateur and professional alike will spend the day shaping a 300 lb. block of ice into some object like the one shown here that will please the judges enough to give it a blue ribbon. The goal is to be able to see right through the sculpture, not to have any frost on it, says Miller. You shouldn't be able to see it unless it has a solid color background.

It?s not easy to do. You have one shot at it, he says. If you cut off an arm, a leg or a wing, all you can do is try to fuse it back on. Working with ice is definitely a dicey process. One year a carver worked all day, only to have his sculpture fall completely apart just before the judges got there.

Most carvers do the basic outlines of their sculptures using a chain saw. For the finer work, chisels and gouges are used, sometimes even finer instruments.

Miller is considered a professional because he?s been in the hotel biz for 25 years (he now owns the Inn of the Tartan Fox in Swanzey) and ice sculpture has been part of his duties. He?s not doing a lot of carving these days but he still enjoys his yearly outing to Keene?s Central Square, chain saw in hand.

Ice carving isn't the only fun thing going on at the festival check out the snowboard rail jam. Snow is brought in from nearby Granite Gorge and groomed into a pile that snowboarders do their tricks on.

There's also snowman-making, horse-drawn carriage rides, a snowball toss, a little tot snow slide, a scavenger hunt, a bonfire and music from a barbershop quartet.

Cindy Boynton, commerce coordinator of the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce, says the Fest allows people to celebrate what the season offers instead of huddling at home; it also helps drive traffic to downtown Keene in one of the worst shopping times of the year, the dead of winter.

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