Winter carving Fun

Team Nebraska’s entry depicts a plane flying through an obstacle course. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY Karen Mahoney )

Winter sun and carving fun

Teams battle balmy weather at snow sculpting competition


LAKE GENEVA — While most Wisconsinites were basking in balmy weather Saturday, Matt and Thane Seeley of Omaha, Neb., were hoping for a colder, cloudier weekend for the National Snow Sculpting Championship in Lake Geneva.

The father-son team worked against unusually warm temperatures, sunny skies and brisk winds to create ‘Tight Squeeze.” It was their interpretation of the Red Bull Air Races, where daredevil pilots navigate lightweight planes between air-filled pylons that create a slalom course in the sky.

“We had to modify our original design to embed the plane wings into the pylons instead of making whisper-thin connections between them,” Matt said. “We wanted to push the design to the limit and utilize more open spaces, but the weather was just too warm.”

As the only two-person team in the fierce competition among the 15 sculptures, Matt admitted that the day was challenging but rewarding as the design earned them third place overall.

“This was exhausting, as you have to be in good physical shape. There is a lot of cutting, shoveling and carving,” he said, “but this group of contestants is the best ever. All are willing to help lend tools and give encouragement. It’s a lot of fun and a great bonding experience with my son.”

While an award did not go to “Lazy Horse” created by Neal Vogt, Christ Vogt and Jon Dietz of North Lake, Wis., Elaine Haydock of Twin Lakes thought it was the clear winner.

“It was just carved so perfectly,” she said, pointing out the life-sized horse lounging in an overstuffed chair with a bucket of oat chips by his side. “The design had character, was comical and so complete. Some of the designs were drastically unusual, but this one really stood out. Those guys really knew what they were doing.”

Creating the structure was more difficult than usual and required several design modifications, admitted Jon Dietz, who has entered competitions for the past five years.

“We had to change the plans several times to make the design more solid, and even with that, we had five to six pieces collapse this morning,” he said. “We were finished (Friday), but were literally patching just before the judging started.”

Despite Mother Nature turning all of the sculptures into piles of slush, one team seemed to retain a sense of humor.

Originally slated to create “Holding the World,” a kneeling man hoisting the world on his shoulders, Team Minnesota 2, consisting of Jon Baller, Curtis Cook and Joseph Hauwiller, ended up with an enormous pile of mush, which they appropriately renamed “Global Warming.”

First place and the People’s Choice Award went to Team Michigan’s Luke and Max Dehtia and Ryan Olszowy. Their intricate sculpture of a fire-breathing dragon emerging from a rocky cavern seemed to withstand nature’s fury until the judging was final.

Second place went to Kelley Casey, Paul Diekoff Jr. and David White of Team Minnesota for “Turtle Treasure Trove.” The design featured a turtle at the bottom of the sea, discovering golden coins among a shipwreck.

Despite the heavy competition, no cash prizes are awarded at the events. Artists work solely for the bragging rights and the challenge, although Dietz admitted that the contest this year took a bit more ingenuity than in other years.

“It was like trying to keep an ice cream cone solid with high winds and a space heater next to it,” he said. “Very difficult.”

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