Team USA snow sculptors say they’re just big kids who like to play in the snow.
But after seeing them toil in bitterly cold conditions hour after hour, it’s clear that this trio is driven by a white-hot determination to deliver.
For twenty-two years, Mike Martino, Tom Queoff and Mike Sponholtz have converged here each year from their homes in LaCrosse and Milwaukee to create a snow sculpture at the Woodson Art Museum. So witnessing the process for the first time was like watching a well-oiled machine. But this is no widget-making assembly line. They work sheer magic.
Poof! Curator Andy McGivern arranges for five truckloads of pristine snow to be delivered and then packed into a 10-foot tall and 20-foot long box made from forms used to pour concrete.
Abracadabra! Mike Martino produces a miniature clay model of the dragon slide they will carve. They mark blue grid lines onto the giant rectangular block of snow. And the carving begins.
Alacazam! Sponholtz, hard to miss in his distinctive fur-skin hat, develops icicles on his beard. But despite frigid temperatures that dip well below 0 degrees throughout their three days of carving, he sheds his parka within five minutes of getting underway each day.
Ta-dah! The intricate detail throughout the completed, dramatic dragon slide is remarkable. Children and adults alike – more than 700 throughout the opening weekend – are enchanted by the giant dragon, whimsical troll, and castle turret and are eager to climb the staircase to give the slippery slide a try.
Team USA snow sculptors say that after building friendships in Wausau throughout two decades of winter stints here, coming to the Woodson Art Museum feels like home. So maybe part of their drive to work ever-more-wonderful winter magic stems from giving their best efforts for the friends they’ve made here. Perhaps the camaraderie and synergy sparked amongst accomplished snow sculptors drives them onward. Or maybe they just get caught up in the moment – carving something big and fanciful for people to enjoy, quickly and thoroughly, before it’s gone.
Whatever’s behind the snow sculptors’ passion and drive to brave the cold and carve away day after day, we’re fortunate to be able to witness their magic in motion. Although a week of 40-degree weather took its toll on the 2011 dragon slide snow sculpture, we can celebrate those who seized the moment to ride the slide while they could.
Here’s to living passionately and well and to thoroughly enjoying the ride!