Editor's note: The unveiling of the big Multi Block entries in the 26th Annual World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks on March 8 coincided with the worst possible weather. The sun burned through cloudless skies and temperatures soared into the 40s. Residents luxuriated in the unexpected spring-like day, but it threatened to turn the huge, carefully hewn sculptures back into water.
"It was brutal for the sculptors," said long time park volunteer Don Callahan.
Fortunately, the freak warm spell didn't last long. By Saturday it had cooled off and the crowds at the park were "the largest ever," Callahan said.
After the Multi Block awards ceremony on Saturday night, a fire was torched inside a 14-foot-tall ice "chimney."
"The results were spectacular," Callahan said. "It was better than fireworks."
This week temperatures have reverted to something more like normal -- teens in the day and below zero at night. In other words, perfect conditions for a visit to the magical George Horner Ice Park.
If you can't make it, enjoy the photos on these pages and more online at icealaska.com.
FAIRBANKS -- Hunter, Wyona and Logan Skaw, ages 8, 7 and 5, still had energy to spare after two and half hours playing in the children's area of the George Horner Ice Park, navigating the thick-walled ice maze and taking countless sled runs on the lengthy ice slides Saturday afternoon.
About 3:30 p.m., parents Ryan and Melissa Skaw were rounding the trio up for a rest. But it wasn't the end of a fun day yet.
"We're coming back tonight for the lights," Melissa said, referring to the multi-colored spectacle that brightens the park each evening.
The Skaws travel annually from Delta Junction for a family day at the park.
"We come every year because it's a great family environment," Ryan said.
Melissa agrees, adding, "It doesn't cost a boat load of money, and the kids get their exercise."
For the children, the best part of the day's experience is a tossup between the kids' slides and the maze.
Each year Ice Alaska draws thousands of visitors from around the state, country and world to view premier ice sculptures as they are wrought out of locally harvested top grade ice at the nearby O'Grady Pond Too.
The high quality ice attracts ice artists from around the world to participate in the month-long exhibition, which continues through March 31, for the second year at the new ice park on Phillips Field Road west of Peger Road.
The two major World Ice Art Championships competitions -- Single Block and Multi Block, in realistic and abstract divisions -- concluded March 8 and are on daily public view from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Still to come is the annual Frances and Clarence Beers Youth Classic for high school ages. The one ice block (weighing about 2,900 pounds) week-long event begins Monday. The amateur open also continues this week for young people during spring break.
And for anyone interested in trying their hand at ice sculpting there are classes available all month.
After ice skating and playing hockey on the children's park ice rink, grandmother Nancy Dobberpuhl chaperoned 6-year-old Austin and 3-year-old Ivy Dobberpuhl around the children's play area last Saturday.
The trio brought along three sleds of varying sizes to enjoy the multi-ice slides. The largest one was reserved for grandma and whichever grandchild wished to share with her.
"We always get a family pass," Nancy said. "The park is just great. There's no place like it in Alaska."
Rita Valentine also brought along a sled to try out the ice slide runs.
"I'm old, but I still like to sled," she said.
Valentine, the local Avis Rent A Car manager, was escorting a visiting nephew and his girlfriend around the park. It was her second visit.
"I came last week. I like to see everything early," she said.
Valentine also likes to attend Fairbanks events so she can pass on points of interest to out-of-town customers.
For visitors who prefer to ride rather than walk to view the ice sculptures, an open air "train" cruises through the exhibits every day on a regular schedule. A cafeteria/dining room also is open daily in the main building.
Reach Mary Beth Smetzer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Single block abstract
1. "The Meteor Final Destination," 1st Abstract, Vitaly Lednev and Sergei Loginov, Russia
2. "Visitor of the Sun" by Tian Zue Wei and Ling Zhi Zhang, China
3. "Water and Fire" by Ivan Zuev and Eduard Ponomarenko, Russia
4. "New Life" by Qi Feng An and Di An, China
5. "Octopus Garden" by Bradley Groszkiewicz and Allan Bock, USA
Single block realistic
1. "Locust" by Junichi Nakamura and Shintaro Okamoto, Japan
2. "Lion King" by Victor Dagatan and Jim Duggan, USA
3. "Bullseye" by Steve Brice and Heather Brice, USA
4. "Awesome" by Zhe An and Chun He Zhang, USA
5. "Rascasse" by Mario Amegee and Jeff Moehlin; Monoco and USA
Multi block sculptures, abstract
1. "Winter Breeze" by Stan Kolonko, Jerry Perun, Chris Uyehara and Wei Sen Liang, USA
2. "Hope" by Ivan Zuey, Mikhail Vasilenko, Aleksandr Parfenov and Eduard Ponomarenko, Russia
3. "Singing in Unison" by Vitaly Lednev, Junko Yanagida, Mario Amegee and Speareo Stephens, Russia, Monaco, Japan and USA
4. "On My Way Home" by Tian Zuo Wei, Qun Li Mu, Ling Zhi Zhang and Linda Heck, China and USA
5. "The Dream of the Sky" by Sergei Zinner, Andrey Koshelev, Viacheslav Maksimov and Evgenii Gorbunov, Russia
Multi block sculptures, realistic
1. "Hunting Dragons" by Steve Brice, Steve Cox, Heather Brice and Justin Cox, USA
2. "Foreign Object" by Chris Foltz, Jillian Howell, Woojay Poynter and Amelia Rombach, USA
3. "Unstoppable" by Keven Laughlin, David Bourdeau, Sam Vose and Carl Eady, USA
4. "Extreme Ice" by Qi Feng An, Di An, Julio Martinez and Aubrey Newton, China, Mexico and USA
5. "Crevasse" by Anita Tabor, Gina Eaton, Jacob Harding and Greg Bartholomew, USA