The air was frosty, which was appropriate given the event that was about to take place. Big platforms were set up all around one side of the square but remained empty. People were starting to gather near a small stage set up near the clock tower, so we followed. We assumed this was where the day’s ice sculpture competition would take place. Sure enough, a few minutes later a group of men, and one woman, dressed in black and orange coveralls, each with a different country across the back in bold black letters, came to the front of the crowd and posed in front of the stage for photos.
Day 1: quick and dirty
Soon after, the speed competition started. In rounds of three, the ice sculptors took to big blocks of ice with chainsaws and attempted to replicate the picture given to them. They had just 20 minutes. The first round was a kid in a winter hat and scarf propping up a sled. The second was a reindeer. It was amazing to see what they were able to do in such a short amount of time.
By this point, Andy and I were getting hungry and went in search of lunch while the next groups competed. Afterwards as we walked back to see how things had progressed, I saw one of the guys with USA on his jacket a few steps ahead of me. I quickened my pace to catch up with him. I introduced myself and found out his name was Joel. Turns out he’s originally from Atlanta but now lives in Colorado, where he works at a restaurant and does ice sculpting with his friend Jess, who came over moments later and joined our conversation. Then I asked him how people get into ice sculpting.
“Most of us are chefs. Banquets, weddings, events like that, they often want ice sculptures, so it makes sense for chefs to learn how to do it.” (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.)
Chefs. It makes sense, but I never would’ve guessed it.
Check out their site Cool Hand Ice.
Day 2: slow and steady
The next day was an all day long competition. The sculptors were in pairs and they had about eight hours to sculpt a design of their choice. This time, instead of just chainsaws and a few other small tools, they had entire suitcases of tools for shaping the ice. We even saw dry ice and small blow torches being used for various effects.
All day long spectators came and went. The crowd was never really thin no matter how much time was still left on the clock. People were intrigued by the process, not just the final result.
I’m not a fan of cold weather, so I didn’t want to stand there all day long, but we made a point to walk through the square a few times throughout the day to see how all the different sculptures were coming along. Bricks of ice slowly turned into an airplane, or a seahorse, or a bust of someone I assume was a well known Polish man. I was impressed by what they did the day before in 20 minutes, so the results of eight hours of labor was astounding. Here’s what Joel and Jess came up with:
And a few more of my favorites:
Joel and Jess didn’t win, but their friends Victor and Angelito (USA and Philippines) came in first place with this gorgeous sculpture:
The dates of our weekend in Poznan, Poland were randomly chosen, and we had planned on going to Dresden until about two hours before we booked the train tickets. We had no idea the ice sculpture was going on until after we were committed to coming, so it was a wonderful surprise to learn we had picked such a great weekend. I knew nothing about ice sculpture before, and I certainly didn’t realize there were competitions. Despite the frigid temperatures during our stay, I was happy to be there and excited to watch those blocks of ice take form.