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Cold molds: Snow sculptures a sight to see at City Park

Art students from Detroit Lakes, Frazee-Vergas and Lake Park-Audubon spent the day at the Detroit Lakes City Beach on Wednesday, creating larger-than-life snow sculptures for the 2nd Annual Snow Sculpture Competition, a part of Polar Fest. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)1 / 9
Laker teams work on their sculptures at the City Park and Beach on Wednesday. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)2 / 9
A bundled-up student from the winning team, Team #1 from Detroit Lakes, adds some detail to the face of their giant cobra sculpture. The amount of detail added to the cobra was one of the features that won over judges. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)3 / 9
Young artists give some shape to the top of their SpongeBob SquarePants-themed snow sculpture during the competition on Wednesday. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)4 / 9
A young artist shapes the snow using her hands and some small tools. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)5 / 9
Familiar cartoon characters and features, like SpongeBob SquarePants' pineapple-shaped house and Snoopy atop his dog house, are depicted among the 13 snow sculptures now on display at the City Park. The sculptures were created by about 50 area art students on Wednesday. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)6 / 9
Despite frigid temps and cold wind, students who spent the day outside on Wednesday for the Snow Sculpture Competition all said they had a good time. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)7 / 9
A team from Lake Park-Audubon works on their snow sculpture, an abstract, multi-tiered creation. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)8 / 9
The winning cobra sculpture, with the names of the Laker artists who created it: Lauren Krengel, Elise Lakin, Abby Gray, Sheyenne Norberg, Henry Vogt and Lexy Stearns. (Submitted Photo)9 / 9

It was a blistering cold day at the beach for the 50 or so young artists who took part in Wednesday's 2nd Annual Snow Sculpture Competition.

With single-digit temperatures and an icy breeze off Detroit Lake, the kids battled frozen eyelashes and numb toes as they chiseled, piled, patted and scraped their big blocks of snow into recognizable shapes like a shark and a giant ice cream cone.

"If I haven't gotten frostbite before, I do now!" laughed one of the student sculptors, Laker Sarah Kappahn.

Nonetheless, the students reported having a blast. The competition was a fun excuse to get out of the classroom and into the community, they said, and they liked the opportunity to create public art that everyone gets to see and enjoy. They also had a good time laughing, chatting, and even throwing a few snowballs at each other in the process.

Held at the Detroit Lakes City Park, right next to the City Beach and Pavilion, the Snow Sculpture Competition was coordinated by the Detroit Lakes Ice Harvest Steering Committee as a part of Polar Fest. The event was expanded this year to include school districts from both within and outside of Detroit Lakes, and multiple teams from Frazee-Vergas and Lake Park-Audubon joined the local teams.

In all, 13 teams created 13 sculptures, ranging from the cartoonishly funny, like a 7-foot-tall version of SpongeBob SquarePants' pineapple-shaped house, to the artistically abstract, like a multi-layered, curved and tiered wall of snow.

The sculptures were created and completed within a matter of hours on Wednesday, Feb. 13. They will remain up for public viewing for "as long as Mother Nature allows," according to Carrie Johnston, a member of the steering committee. They are easily seen from the road in front of the Pavilion, where Washington Avenue curves into West Lake Drive; for a closer look, take a stroll on the pathways in the park that surround the sculptures.

Johnston was one of four judges tasked with declaring a winning sculpture at the end of the competition. She said the judges considered "use of material, use of space and overall appeal" in making their decision.

In the end, Team #1 from Detroit Lakes took top honors with their sculpture of a giant cobra. It was the team's "attention to detail" and the neat way the body of the snake coiled, Johnston said, that made it stand out as the winner.

"They had a good pattern to it overall," she said of the team's efforts. "It was just really well done."

The winning team included Lauren Krengel, Elise Lakin, Abby Gray, Sheyenne Norberg, Henry Vogt and Lexy Stearns. They received a "traveling trophy" to take back to the high school, where it will stay for a year, until the next competition.

Kids from all the area schools said they chose their sculpture designs based on what they thought looked cool as well as what would be challenging to make yet still doable for them. Most had never made a snow sculpture before, and the art form can be unpredictable, with weather, snow quality and other factors affecting the end result.

Detroit Lakes High School Art Teacher Claire Danner said there were goods and bads to the colder weather this year. Last year's competition, which she and some of her art students were there for, took place on an unusually warm winter day. That made it more enjoyable for the kids overall, but also caused the snow to melt even as they were trying to sculpt it. It was so sunny and warm that many of last year's sculptures fell by the end of the day of competition.

With the much colder weather this winter, Danner joked, that won't be a problem again: "They'll probably be up until May!"

She also commented on the addition of other area school districts to the competition, saying it was a good thing, giving the event a more social and competitive, while still friendly, feel.

"It's fun to have the other schools here," she said.

Opening it up to more schools was an intentional effort by the Ice Harvest Steering Committee, which plans to continue to grow the competition in future years. Johnston said there may be opportunities for students in the industrial arts or other kinds of classes to get involved in new and different ways.

Becky Mitchell, a member of the steering committee, said the competition "seems to be very popular. It's great to get the kids out...of the classroom. It's something different."

There's an extra educational component to the competition, too, with kids getting the chance to work directly with professional artists. Johnston said Detroit Lakes artists Hans Gilsdorf and Eric Rotter both visited the area art classes prior to the competition, to offer some snow sculpting tips and advice. They were also on hand during the competition to provide feedback and suggestions as the kids worked on their creations.

"Each of those schools got those artists in the classroom, and then got to work with those artists out in the snow," said Johnston. "The competition is a chance to get outdoors into the Minnesota weather... It's a little different learning experience."

"I think it went great," Mitchell said of this year's event.

For more information about the competition and other current happenings at the City Beach and Park, visit

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune as a reporter and magazine editor in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in Detroit Lakes with her husband, Dan, their 4-year-old son and toddler daughter, and their yellow Lab.

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