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Snow Sculptors Prepare Icy Art Ahead Of National Championship

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In half a dozen states, amateur snow sculptors have been up all night chipping away at huge blocks of snow, making art. It's for the 35th annual Snow Sculpting Competition. The intrepid Connie Kuntz of member station WNIJ in Rockford, Ill., checked it out.

CONNIE KUNTZ, BYLINE: It's bitter cold here in a city park near downtown Rockford. And there is only one day left as 10 teams of sculptors try to transform two ton blocks of snow the size of an industrial refrigerator into art. Among them is teacher Kelly Madison.

KELLY MADISON: It's packed down into the mold a couple of days before. So when it's pressed in there, it's really icy on the outside. But as we cut into it, it'll be a lot softer.

KUNTZ: Jacqui Worden is also braving bone-chilling temperatures like her fellow artists in states like Iowa, Colorado and Alaska, for this competition, she says the colder, the better.

JACQUI WORDEN: I'm just so grateful that this year - that we don't have any rain. And while I'm not looking forward to minus 2 degrees windchill, I'm very happy that it's not going to be above freezing.

KUNTZ: Sculptors here say while the competition is friendly, it's intense. Brian Hierstein says it's a challenge not being allowed any power tools.

BRIAN HIERSTEIN: I like my axe to take off a lot of snow at the beginning. And then I have a ceramics loupe tool that I like for my detailed work towards the end.

KUNTZ: The creations are whimsical. "Hootie And The Blowfish" is a humongous owl hugging a fish. "Book Wyrm" is an enormous coiled-up worm reading a book. The competitors are fueled by coffee, hot cocoa and adrenaline as they work through the night.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You got this.

KUNTZ: Here in Rockford, 30,000 people drive or walk through every year to cheer on the artists and see the sculptures, like Laura Gibbs-Green.

LAURA GIBBS-GREEN: I come every year to watch them work at night. It's just really fun watching them work and really get to see the finished product.

KUNTZ: The sculptors will work straight through until early tomorrow morning, when judging begins. The winner advances to the U.S. Nationals in Lake Geneva, Wis. For NPR News, I'm Connie Kuntz in Rockford. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Connie Kuntz

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