Feb 3, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff WriterThey were supposed to carve sculptures, but along two blocks on Riverton's Main Street on Saturday, a few chisels, chainsaws and files turned blocks of ice into educational opportunities -- and a reason for families to get together.
About 25 people partook in the ice carving contest of the Wild West Winter Carnival. Working individually and in groups, the contestants carved about 20 blocks ice arranged on the side walk of Main Street between Third and Fifth streets downtown.
Judges would announce three winners in each of three skill categories, but many sculptors were not focused on the competition.
Central Wyoming College art professor Nita Kehoe was chiseling her first ice sculpture, a moose, and had brought some students from her sculpture class because she thought it would be fun for them. Kehoe said she had carved stone before but liked the ice because it is faster.
Artists at work
Two of her students, Albert Valdez and Samantha DeRosa, worked next to her, carving a Pokémon penguin in her 42-inch ice block.
"It's kind of a wintry theme," Valdez said.
Balancing the sculpture presented a challenge to the classmates. According to the picture they were working from, the fictional creature had a large belly and small feet.
"That's why I want to leave some back here," Valdez said pointing to a lower, back corner of the block. "It should be fine if we leave a base for it to stand on."
Charlene Delaunay and Jordan Biltoft also are in Kehoe's class. They worked to sculpt a mug shaped like a snowman. Neither had carved ice before, and were learning from the experience.
Biltoft said making the proportions of the sculpture correct was difficult.
"Even though it may not be perfect right now, it's interesting to see what the ice does," Delaunay added.
Ice sculpting taught art students Lori Bench and Rena Hansen the value of communication. They had decided to carve a cat, thinking it would be simple.
Laughing, Bench recounted she had started on the cat's face when she saw her partner doing something confusing.
"Wait a minute, what are you doing?" Bench asked Hansen.
"The face," Hansen replied.
The women realized they were both carving the animal's head on opposite sides of the ice, and talked it out.
"We had to make sure we didn't end up wit a cat with two heads," Hansen said.
Families carve together
Riverton contractor Randy Archer said his friend and ice carving contest chairwoman Georgia Davis talked him into carving his first block of ice about a few years ago. Since then, his son and later two grandchildren have joined him.
The Archers now have a friendly family competition, and on Saturday morning, all four were carving blocks in a line.
Randy's son Kris lives in Billings, Mont., now, but has driven down every year for eight years to challenge his dad. For three years now, Kris's daughter Ashlyn, 16, and son Kaden, 12, also have joined in.
"We don't care if we compete with other people or not," Randy Archer said. "Me and my son have our own competition."
"It's kind of a family rivalry," Kris added.
That competition is indeed fierce. Davis reported the two older Archers have held first and second place for the last several years.
This year, Randy's design had a tricky structure. He was carving an iguana sitting on a branch rose off a base with the lizard's tail curved around the stick's lower portion. Most of the sculpture's weight would rest on a skinny support of the branch and tail.
"I like lizards so I thought I'd try a lizard for a change," Randy Archer said.
As his dad worked carefully, Kris transformed his whole block of ice into one, giant horse's head.
Next to Kris, his son Kaden decided to carve a duck.
"I don't want to choose something too hard," Kaden said. "It's something kind of fun."
Though he was not ready yet, he said he would compete with his dad and grandpa someday.
Next to him, Kaden's sister chiseled away at her ice.
Ashlyn said watching her father and grandfather taught her to carve ice, and this year a statue she found in Jerry's Flowers and Things inspired her to make a dolphin.
She said she hopes to beat her brother in the competition.
A block away, Scott Gordon and his six-year-old son Laryc, worked together to sculpt a rose. Scott carved the the stem, leaves and flower with a chainsaw, but Laryc added a unique touch: color.
Laryc was drinking a red Gatorade when he told his father: "I think we should put the color (in the flower)."
Scott later explained, "I thought it would be cool to show it's a rose."
So Scott cut holes down into the flower with the chainsaw, and the pair filled the holes with Laryic's red drink.
"I always help him," Laryc said referring to his dad.
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