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Aurora

Winterfest almost here



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January 26, 2011 | 09:05 AM
Just days from now, orange dump trucks will be hauling loads of "artificial" snow made at Grand Geneva to Riviera Park. The white stuff will be worked into 10-foot tall cylinders, padded down by workers until the 3-ton chunks of snow are as perfect as possible.

Then, it will be time for elite teams from as far away as Alaska, to spend the next three days using saws, axes, files and shovels as they carve intricate and creative sculptures from the thick white snow.

It all means Winterfest will be under way soon. Commonly referred to as Lake Geneva's most widely known event, this year it runs from Feb. 2 to 6 and focuses mainly around the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championships, the top snow sculpting competition for U.S. carvers.

Carving will start Wednesday morning, with judging set for Saturday morning, Feb. 5. Each snow sculpting team consists of three members, each older than 18 and from the same state. No assistance is allowed at the sculpture site, except any given by competition organizers and ground crews.

Nothing other than snow, ice or water are used in the sculpting process. The rules also stipulate that power tools are not permitted. The teams use saws, axes, files, scaffolding, shovels and a variety of homemade implements created to exact specifications.

"Competing in the National Championship is an amazing challenge and one of the most unique experiences I've ever had as a sculptor," said championship sculptor David Andrews, who has participated in the competition several times. "It's hard to explain, but there's something that happens when we're close to the end and working on the finishing touches. You look at what the team has created, the works of the other teams and recall the events of the past week. It's truly a euphoric moment. You say to yourself, 'Look what I've created out of snow.'"

Often, the sculptures don't come together until late in the process. Many of the details are carved just before judging and weather also seems to play a role in the event each year. No matter whether there is snow on the ground, artificial snow will be used because it melts slower than natural snow and carves better.

"It's not uncommon to see the sculptors working late into the night on Friday," Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director George Hennerley said. "In fact, most of the teams will forego sleep to ensure their sculptures are perfect for the judging on Saturday morning."

Sculpting ends at 11 a.m. Saturday and People's Choice voting runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Winners will be announced after the voting is complete. Last year's People's Choice award also was the second-place winner, "If I Only Had a Brain" by a team from Michigan. Team Wisconsin won the competition last year with their Egrets sculpture.

But, there's more to Winterfest than just the carving.

The weekend will be full of activities, mainly in the Riviera Ballroom and lakefront areas.

On Saturday, the Riviera Ballroom will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. where there will be raffles, entertainment, food, fun and refreshments. Children's entertainment will include music and magic starting each hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. In the park and along the lakefront Saturday, there will be children's sculpting and wagon, helicopter and wheeled sleigh rides.

On Sunday, the Riviera Ballroom will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include food booths and bluegrass and country entertainment.

Throughout the weekend, there also are activities throughout the downtown stores and Grand Geneva Resort and Spa has a number of Winter Carnival Activities, including skiing and snowboarding competitions, raffles, races and demonstrations.

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