BRIDGTON – Braving frigid temperatures, several competitors and spectators showed up Monday to observe the introduction of ice carving to the Mushers Bowl.

The event, which took place at Stevens Brook Elementary School, saw four competitors vying for a spot at the Maine Ice Carving Championships at the Portland Harbor Hotel on Saturday. Contestants were guided by carvers from the nonprofit Maine Snow and Ice Sculpting Foundation.

“This is a great sport,” said Ed Jarrett, executive director of the foundation. “It’s something you can grow into and become a carver.”

Jarrett’s organization has taken part in the construction of numerous cold weather structures and sculptures. Despite the name, the foundation also does work with sand and holds the record for the world’s tallest sand castle.

Jarrett does presentations for culinary arts classes, and most of the student carvers recognized him from classes at the Southern Maine Community College. Charlie Melchus and Tracy London, both of Portland, as well as Ann Apicelli of North Yarmouth, all attend the college. The fourth student, Erika Hoffman of Portland, studies woodworking and furniture design at the Maine College of Art.

London said culinary students at SMCC put on a buffet every Friday, and part of the course involves students doubling up to create ice sculptures.

“We learn how to be creative, but also stay within the boundaries of what will actually work,” she said.

Each student was given a 325-pound block of ice, access to power tools and three hours. Using chain saws to make the larger cuts and die casters for more intricate work, the ice slowly evolved into works of art. Later, members of the foundation fused together several blocks and began working on a sculpture of a snowmobile.

London’s piece portrayed a bird in flight over a mountainous landscape. Apicelli said her sculpture, a heart with “Cold Cold” engraved in it, was inspired by the weather and the approach of Valentine’s Day.

“I thought, maybe I’ll do a heart, but with a little black humor,” she said.

Hoffman, who has carved in mediums such as plaster, steel and pumpkin, but never ice, portrayed a diving tropical fish. She said she decided on the topic after sketching fish the night before.

“I also wanted to try to give it some fluidity and movement,” Hoffman said.

Melhus, formerly of Norway, recently graduated from SMCC and works as a cook at the Harraseekett Inn in Freeport. When a wing of his dragon sculpture cracked off, members of the foundation were quick to offer assistance.

“Ice first aid,” Chad Pelletier said. “When it’s cold like this, you can basically take a little bit of water and glue it back.”

To determine a winner, carvers were asked to rate the sculptures other than their own, with Jarrett also casting a ballot. When the results were announced, Melhus had won the competition and a “people’s choice” poll of the spectators. Hoffman came in second, followed by Apicelli and London.

Melhus said the inn does ice sculptures for a Sunday buffet, but he has no part in their creation.

“It’s really a question of scheduling,” he said. “I would definitely enjoy making this part of my career.”

 


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