A veteran of 20-some years of competition, and a relative newcomer to the sport, both residents of Cannon Falls, put their talents to the test in the 2014 St. Paul Winter Carnival state snow sculpture contest. Both, along with their respective teams came away with winning creations.
Tim Trost and fellow members of team Sculptors in Sync, Jared Trost of Hastings and Jim Krueger of East Bethel took home first place honors with their design, "It's Bee-ginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas." The sculpture was an intricate piece, showing a honey bee, flower and snowflake-shaped honeycomb.
The responsibility of coming up with the original idea rotates through the team. Jared Trost is Tim's nephew; Jim Krueger is a friend. Jared introduced the idea of the bee and came up with the name.
This was the second Winter Carnival competition for Heather Friedli-Ratzlaff who lives in the Sogn Valley area with her husband and toddler son. Heather has been doing snow sculpture for five years, taking part in competitions and symposiums. A member of Team Dino Fight, "Mobius Fish" was the title of their creation. Designed by Heather, first in clay, the sculpture brings three elements together - humor, beauty and ingenuity.
Other team members are Jaymie Stocks of Ely, and Brian Koeler of Eagan. She notes that each team member brings certain strengths to the project.
"Jaymie is the head, she makes all the arrangements. Brian is the heart of the team, and I'm the eyes. I like to stand back and look carefully at each detail. Brian likes to jump in and carve out the basic shape."
The Trost, Trost and Krueger team members have specialities as well. Tim and Jim are more detail-oriented, while Jared is best at the big cuts and seeing the big picture.
The contest is described by both sculptors as a "physically draining but exhilarating" contest. Held this year at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Jan. 24-26, teams had to endure extreme cold and wind.
"My hands and arms are still a little sore," Heather said, almost a week after the competition. She "enjoys cold temperatures."
Working in snow has variables that must be considered. The snow this year was a mixture of man-made, blown into the eight-foot square boxes and also natural snow. As layers of snow go into the boxes, either by blower or skid loader, volunteers tamp the snow down by stomping on it. Tim has helped with this process in the past, and notes that it is a hard job, but very important to the process. Air pockets and particulate matter can have a big impact on the success of the sculpture.
Tools are custom designed for the competition. Power tools are not allowed. For the big cuts needed at the beginning of the process, Tim and his team use a two-person cross-cut saw. Shovels, flat ice chippers, chisels, chains, hardware cloth and files fill the sculptors tool boxes. Heather is always on the look-out for a household or kitchen tool that would work well on the snow. Her team has named many of their favorite tools.
The three days of the competition are intense, with some teams working throughout the night.
"There were years when I worked through the night, but not anymore," says Trost.
Heather decided it was best to come home at night. "With a two-year-old at home, it worked better for me to come home and return early in the morning after a good night's sleep."
Food is available for the competitors and they are encouraged to visit with fellow sculptors, lend tools and ideas to each other. They are also encouraged to interact with visitors to the competition and remind them to vote on the People's Choice award. Interaction with site visitors is fun, but Heather noted that someone asked her, "would you take a picture of me with your sculpture?" She was happy to do it, but this happened only a few minutes before the judges came by, so time was precious.
The Winter Carnival committee gives each participant gifts. This year they received black leather gloves. Heather was wearing her gift gloves until she noticed that the black color was coming off on her fish sculpture. Since color is not allowed on the pieces, the gloves had to quickly be exchanged for another pair. Tim recalls a year when the gift was Hot Fingers gloves, new to the marketplace. They had bright pink, yellow and green fingers which also left color marks on the sculpture. Sometimes the gifts are nice, but cause more work than reward!
As judging gets close and the final finishing touches are being worked out, bad things can happen. One of the walleye fins on Mobius Fish fell off and had to be reattached with slush. Water is available for the sculptors to use, but care must be taken to not use too much, as it can look icy. Mobius Fish's fin was successfuly reattached, the slush smoothed over and it held tight through the judging and beyond.
Time is always a critical factor. The Trost team's bee had to go without some of the detailing they had planned and some intricate work on the flower had to be shelved.
Shadow and light play a huge part in the success of the sculpture. The honeycomb on the bee sculpture appeared to have open tubes, but they actually were only partially hollowed out, to give the structure more stability.
Both felt the State Fair grounds was a good location. The sculptures were left in place until the Winter Carnival ended, when they would be destroyed. Both sculptors noted that the very transitory nature of working with snow appeals to them.
Both artists agreed that the snow sculptures were designed to be in place for a short time. Then it's time to move on.
Tim Trost is a graphic artist and illustrator. Heather, who works with special education students, paints, does fabric and fiber art and finds inspiration in nature, as does Trost.
Whether these two artists meet again on the field of snow sculpting competition is anyone's guess. Cannon Falls was well represented in this year's contest.