Hours before the CenturyLink Ice Arts Festival opened in downtown Carlisle Friday, Kevin Gregory and his crew of nine from Ice Concepts started their work to prepare the main attraction for this weekend — ice in various forms.
Gregory, the president and owner of the Hatfield Township-based company, said three trucks started out on routes through town at 7 a.m. Friday to deliver and set up the 74 ice sculptures that will be located outside of downtown businesses.
“Things are going well,” he said.
The sculptures were packed in trucks in the order in which they would be delivered, he said. By 11 a.m., one truck had finished its deliveries and a second was almost finished.
The festival opened at 4 p.m. Friday with a ribbon cutting at 2nd Time Around. It continues from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The CenturyLink Ice Art Festival schedule for downtown Carlisle:
The two primary carvers for Ice Concepts — Gregory and Tony Young — have been working together for 21 years after both started their careers in culinary arts and found a love for ice carving.
Gregory said the company started working on the sculptures for the Ice Art Fest about three weeks ago, intermingling work on the festival’s sculptures with its regular work for businesses, events and even sports teams like the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles.
“We do a lot of work for the Eagles. We did a ton of work for them this season,” Gregory said.
Ice Concepts works out of a 7,000-square-foot facility with plenty of freezer capacity to store the sculptures.
The sculptures are cut from 300-pound blocks of ice using chainsaws first to get the rough shape. Then, sanders smooth the pieces before the detail is added with die grinders and other power tools. Even with all that cutting, the final sculpture carries some weight.
“They are around 150 pounds a piece. Some are a little more and some are a little less. Most are a little more,” Gregory said.
To set up these smaller pieces, the crew first sets up and levels off a small wooden table that is then covered with a black cloth and a carpet square.
The largest pieces at Ice Art Fest are created in smaller sections to be assembled onsite. The blocks that became the ice throne located by the Old Courthouse on the square, for example, were wrapped in layers of cardboard and thermal blankets topped by shrink wrap before Young and his team set to work on it.
Ten separate blocks were covered with thermal sleeves with additional blocks tucked between the rows of ice. The assembly of the throne began by laying out the plywood base and topping it with carpet pieces that had been cut to fit the base.
Then, the team began the process of roughing surfaces with a board filled with nails or sanders. Pieces of ice were further trimmed to fit using chainsaws. Some blocks were scored so they could be accurately cut to fit the overall sculpture onsite.
The joints between blocks are sealed with what could best be described as slush made from the nearby piles of snow and water much as the seams in drywall are sealed with joint compound. Water is also injected into the seams to hold the piece together.
Two sculptures will be created live on Saturday at the corner of Dickinson Avenue and North Hanover Street before being moved to their locations for the duration of the festival.
One of those sculptures had been commissioned by Redd’s Smokehouse BBQ, which closed this week after a fire Monday destroyed the kitchen. Owner Nick Mauldin said the restaurant still wanted to be part of the Ice Art Fest so it will be serving a buffet at Chef Exclusive, located next door to the restaurant, starting at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The price hasn’t been set for the buffet, but Mauldin said it would likely feature three meats and three sides to serve as “a way to give the regulars a little last taste of Redd’s for awhile.”