Carving Connections and Sculpting Support

Sarah Cairoli

Bozeman’s abundant opportunities to get outside and play feel like a life raft during these turbulent times. When indoor isolation feels overwhelming, we can hit the slopes and chat with friends through our goggles and masks or get the kids out to race down our local sledding hills. Those of us looking for an artistic outlet have only to wait until late January before we get two opportunities to get outside and create. And the best part? You don’t need to have any prior experience to participate in Sweet Pea’s 5th Annual Ice Carving Competition or Reach Inc.’s Snow Sculpture Competition.

Ice Carving
The Sweet Pea Ice Carving Competition will take place on Saturday, January 30 in Soroptomist Park, on the corner of Rouse and Main in downtown Bozeman. Believe it or not, anyone can participate. It’s as easy as filling out an application for a block of ice on Sweet Pea’s website and showing up, according to the event’s creator, Melanie Mangione. You, or your team, will get a 300+ -pound block of ice to transform into anything you can imagine. You do have to bring your own tools, but Mangione says all you need is a sharp, wide wood chisel; a drywall saw; a horse curry comb; and industrial-strength rubber gloves (as added protection from the sharp tools). Wood chisels will be available on loan for a $10 deposit, so you truly don’t need much more than enthusiasm to participate. This event has had competitors of every skill level, from novices to award-winning professionals.

According to Mangione, ice carving allows you to “do almost anything without having to spend a whole lot of money. Art doesn’t care what your income is.” Mangione has been carving ice since some neighbors taught her in Alaska over a decade ago. She describes the work as “incredibly addictive,” and enjoys seeing others experiment with it. She’ll be running an ice carving demonstration in Soroptomist Park from 1 – 4 p.m. the day before the competition (Friday, January 29), so people have an opportunity to learn the basics before creating their own carvings.

Those who don’t want to carve should come watch. Carving starts mid-morning and continues through the afternoon. Mangione recommends coming in the morning to see everyone begin to carve; the finished sculptures are even more impressive when you see their simple beginnings as mere blocks of ice. Drop by the competition between stops at downtown Bozeman’s shops and eateries.

This outdoor event does not need significant modification to ensure safety from COVID-19. Carvers have always been spread out to keep everyone safe while using sharp tools, and the carvers have always been cordoned off from the public for the same reason. This year, spectators will be directed to move in one direction through the park to help maintain social distancing. The public ice block, which allows anyone and everyone to take a stab at an ice block, will be more regulated this year, and the wood chisel will be sanitized between users. As we all know well, changes in the pandemic may lead to minor changes in the event, but nothing significant. Watching the carving is a great way to get out of the house and get your creative juices flowing, so you’re prepared to participate in the snow-sculpting event sponsored by Reach Inc.

Snow Sculpting
Reach Inc.’s Snow Sculpture Competition will take place throughout the month of February, and registration begins on Friday, January 1, on Reach Inc.’s website. You can compete as an individual or team, and registration fees are a mere $10 or $25 respectively. Sign up, and then, create! Judges will be evaluating three categories: Traditional Snowperson; Animals, Nature, and Creatures; and Random Fun. Make your snow masterpiece anywhere (other than someone else’s private land) and submit a picture of it to Reach will post the pictures it receives to its Facebook page, so you can keep track of your competition. A panel of Reach staff members and clients will decide who wins and receives the prizes donated by local businesses.

The Snow Sculpture Competition was conceived as a complement to Reach Inc.’s traditional Have a Heart Art Auction. The pandemic has forced the auction online; it will be held virtually on Saturday, February 6, from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. The loss of the face-to-face component of the auction led the team at Reach Inc. to look for a way to help the community connect. Snow sculpting seemed like “an opportunity to involve people in a different way,” according to Jacy Conradt, Reach’s director of community relations and development. People of all ages can support an important community organization while having fun, tapping in to their creative potential, and getting outside.

Reach Inc. has been providing invaluable services in our community for over 44 years. The Reach team “empowers adults with disabilities” through several residential and vocational programs. According to Conradt, Reach residents have been “patient, resilient, and understanding” while facing the restrictions and isolation resulting from the pandemic, and the Bozeman community has rallied its support. Intermountain Opera performed at one of Reach’s residences, and several groups have come together to offer holiday meal delivery. The team at Reach is incredibly appreciative and came up with the snow-sculpting contest as an opportunity to bring the community together, even when we have to be apart. It seemed like “a fun way to create joy,” Conradt said.

You don’t have to be a professional sculptor to get out, get creative, and support two important local organizations this winter. Sweet Pea and Reach Inc. have been connecting and supporting the Bozeman community for decades, and they are hosting two fun, local events to help keep us all connected. So, get your thinking caps on, get out your tools, and have some fun supporting them in return. Mutual support: This is the Bozeman way.

This was made by

Sarah Cairoli

Sarah Cairoli is a local writer, tutor, and mother who has been enjoying all Bozeman has to offer for the past decade. She can be reached at (at) hotmail [d0t] com,)

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