By Joseph Robertia
Rain. Not a torrential downpour, but a constant steady stream of water falling from billowing gray clouds that choked out the sky all of last week and through the weekend. The rain dripped from eves and gutters, collected in murky puddles on the ground, and nearly sapped the spirits of organizers and artists participating in the annual ice sculpture-carving event that leads up to the Peninsula Winter Games.
“This is about the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Anchor Point carver Ben Firth, in regard to the 40-degree weather Friday. “Anything above freezing is bad and rain is the worst. Tools don’t work and the water just runs down the sculptures.”
Firth was working on three pieces this year — a butterfly on a leaf in front of Peninsula Community Health Services, an oil lamp at the entrance of Soldotna Mini Storage and a Fred Bear, the mascot for Fred Meyer, in front of the store.
The weather has presented myriad challenges to Firth, who worked on his sculptures last week from Wednesday to Friday, then took the weekend off to evaluate the weather pattern.
“The lamp has lost some parts, but still looks like a lamp. The Fred Meyer one was worse. It dropped an arm. On the butterfly, we carved the wings way fatter than if it were cold, so they’d hold up to melting,” he said.
Hope is not lost. Compared to wood, ice is more forgiving. It can be reshaped or even “glued” with hot water, so Firth will do everything he can to finish the sculptures and in a way that they’ll hold up to the above-freezing temperatures predicted during the day this week.
Tami Murray, the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce organizer of this event, said that some of the artists contracted to create 25 sculptures as well as a huge ice slide in front of the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex had been told to knock off through the weekend and not carve until the weather cooled from the rainy 40s to drier days closer to 32 degrees.
“Right now the local carvers are on hold and will work at night,” she said. “Before the melt we had four carvings pretty much done. Those will be repaired as best they can and we’ll go from there. We have a few extra blocks so if we have to we’ll replace the ones that are too far gone.”