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Ice Sculptures At The Forks, Winnipeg, MB

A cold run of weather forecasted for the weekend might not be ideal for some Winnipeggers, but it’s good news for the crew chipping away at the ice sculptures at The Forks.

“I was quite nervous. By Tuesday,  it was plus three and the sun was shining directly on the ice. It gets quite scary,” said Andy Zhao, the president of the Canadian Ice Festival Inc. 

The warm weather caused a few road blocks for the festival; slabs of ice, weighing about 500 pounds (227 kilograms) each, were originally going to be cut out of the Red River. Due to thin ice conditions, the slabs had to be cut and hauled from Bird’s Hill Provincial Park, semi-load by semi-load. Thanks to Taras Gravel Supplies, about 1,000 blocks of ice are already at The Forks, and Zhao said a few thousand more are on the way.

The warm weather also had the crew throwing tarps over the sculptures to protect them from the sun. An expected dip in temperatures is more than welcomed by Zhao and his crew of 40 ice sculptors from China.

"They complained; they said it was too warm, and I said, 'no it's not warm, this is not normal',” said Zhao, who has lived in Winnipeg for nine years.

“This morning the first thing I told them was, 'See? it's cold'," he said. 

The ice sculptors have already carved out beautiful sculptures of animals, igloos and buildings.

Zhao says the combination of cold temperatures and sun makes for crystal clear and glistening ice.

The Canadian Icetival is set to officially open on Jan. 25. Tickets are $25 each.

Winnipeg Newest Ice Festival Hits Road Block

Global News Winnipeg — It’s going to be a spectacle when it’s done, until then there is a lot of hard work going into the new Icetival ice show coming to The Forks in a matter of weeks. However, the crew of artists from China have already hit their first roadblock.

“They’re taking the snow off the ice because the ice is not that thick yet,” said Organizer Andy Zhao, who is bringing the ice show done in China every winter to Winnipeg. One problem though, the Red River near The Forks, where they were going to get the ice from, hasn’t frozen over yet. “I never think that would happen in Winnipeg to be honest with you,” said Zhao.

So the team of 40 artists have to drive 30 minutes away to a gravel pit near Birds Hill Provincial Park to first shovel snow off of a pond, then cut the ice into chunks and haul it to Winnipeg. “I’ve been in the gravel business for 30 years and I’ve never had anyone come take our ice,” laughs Don Taras with Taras Gravel Supplies.

They’ll begin cutting into the 24 inch thick ice Tuesday and organizers are serious when they say the process will be similar to the ice workers on the movie Frozen. “The ice will automatically start floating on the water,” said Zhao, “then they use a special tool to get the ice off. Exactly the same (as the movie) just we’re using a big chainsaw and they use a man saw.”

“We have a set of forks with the skid steer and we’ll just load them up and place them on a flat deck,” said Taras. Taras and his crew will haul more than 100 semi-loads of ice to The Forks in the coming weeks and the artists will work 16 hour days. “We never think we’re going to do that, it’s really a surprise to us that Winnipeg never have a frozen river,” said Zhao.

They haven’t started building yet and the event has already cost the organizers half a million dollars. That includes planning the event and bring the artists to Canada, that doesn’t include hauling chunks of ice to The Forks. “Our budget is based on, we have the ice in the river so we don’t really know what the final number is yet. I think it will increase significantly,” said Zhao.

Despite this set back, the Icetival will still open in mid-January.  On weekends they plan to have fireworks and live Dj’s and bands..