Annual Jackson ice sculpture competition reveals masterpieces frozen in time
Tim Pierce's manta ray ocean scene took first place in all three categories. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX PHOTO)
JACKSON -- SHORTLY AFTER NOON on Monday, the rays of the January sun shifted away from the front porch of The Wentworth and the protective coverings that were draped over portions of ice blocks came off.
A lot of the ice on those 300-pound blocks had already come off, with chunks of it on the porch's wooden flooring kicked away from the feet of the busy artists who were sculpting their masterpieces at the 18th annual ice-carving competition in Jackson Village.
Though the ice carvers were mostly concentrating on the fine details of their work -affixing a long curling tongue to the roof of a serpent's mouth here, placing the end of a trumpet in an angel's hands there - there was still plenty of camaraderie.
"Hey, Murray, isn't that supposed to fall over at the end?" a fellow artist asked Murray Long, whose Mayan calendar seemed to perch precariously on its base.
"I can make that happen," Long replied. He'd done most of the work on that section of the sculpture in a shaded corner of inn's front porch, carving the calendar's features as the disk lay flat. While carrying it over to its base he quietly sang, "It's the end of the world as we know it."
The blow torches then came out, since after almost three hours of work there were plenty of ice shavings covering the surfaces of the sculptures.
"You can see when they wet it or put a flame on it, it's crystal clear," Dick Devillian of Jackson, an artist and judge for the event, said. He explained that the ice is made specifically for ice sculptures so that it does not have any air in it. The rays of the sun can warm the ice in the interior of the block, producing a cloudy look that no artist wants.
Fellow judge and artist judge Joe Keller of Brownfield, Maine, said the pieces are judged in three categories: workmanship, creativity and technical difficulty.
Fritz Koeppel, owner and general manager of The Wentworth, called this year's pieces "absolutely stunning."
"My heart goes out to the judges; they must have had such a tough, tough time," he said.
It was a hat trick for Tim Pierce, executive chef of the Samoset Resort in Bangor, Maine, whose manta ray ocean scene took first place at the contest, and also won the admiration of onlookers and his peers for first place in the People's Choice, Artist's Favorite categories.
Second place went to Dave Soha of Ice Breakers of Manchester, whose scaly four-legged creature looked part mythical, part prehistoric. Third place went to Chris Gould, former chef at Uni Sashimi Bar at Clio in Boston, for his nautical-themed sculpture. Prizes were $500 for first place and $250 for second. Third place was an overnight stay for two in one of the inn's best suites, with dinner and breakfast included.
"I thought they did a good job," Dot Towle of Intervale said while waiting inside the inn's lobby for the announcement of the winners. "When we first got here they were blocks of ice, and I couldn't see anything in them."
Painter Carl Owen of Madison, who was also a judge for the day, said, "It's kind of interesting watching from start to finish."
The ice carvings are on display until Mother Nature melts them away.
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