An attempt at a world-record-tall ice sculpture came crashing down a few days ago on Barker’s Island in Superior, Wis. Of all times – it happened right when the “sculptor,” Roger Hanson, was being interviewed and photographed by the New York Times. In fact, because Roger is hard-of-hearing, the reporter had to alert him that something was amiss. Roger turned around from the interview just in time to see his creation fall in upon itself.
What his creation looked like before the collapse was a point of discussion between me and my office mates, who work in a nearby building. Before the crash, it rose 66 feet and had wing-like protrusions coming off either side (see my previous blog posting for photos). It struck me as vaguely menacing, so I called it the “ice wraith.” Others thought of it more benevolently and called it a “sentinel” – they thought it was guarding the estuary and harbor. Others called it a “blob.” Calling it a “sculpture” like the news stories do, just seems wrong. It is a creation, but it’s not like Roger is carving it. He’s squirting it.
Well, it’s clear that it is a pile now.
The crash is blamed on a thaw we had a while back. Although the temperatures dropped again enough for ice formation, I suppose the structure got brittle at that point. Roger started adding more water to the top of it instead of making it wider. Even to my unschooled ice sculpture eyes, it seemed precarious – like it needed more width instead of height. (But I speak from the benefit of hindsight.)
Although some are rejoicing at the crash of this hubristic endeavor, others in the community are upset. The project was drawing a crowd and even sported a gyros stand, and people seemed to enjoy watching the progress. Roger is such an earnest man, you can’t help but feel sorry for him. The city of Superior planned light and music shows, presentations, and even a fireworks display around the project for the next three weekends. (Feb 14, 21 and 28 at 6, 7, and 8 p.m.)
After the crash, the big questions were whether to build again and whether to hold the celebratory events. The answer? YES! Roger says he is going to rebuild, and has already started doing so upon the pile that was once his “sculpture.”
Poor Superior always seems the underdog next to the more populous and tourist-friendly Duluth across the bridge. This is yet another example of how the city just can’t win. But perhaps it’s also an example of perseverance and making lemonade out of lemons.
In my first blog entry about this project, I asked, “What could possibly go wrong?” Well, now we know! But at least nobody got hurt. And it makes for a good story. And looking at an ice pile IS sort of interesting. Especially when it’s lit up at night. (Grin.)