Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Sculpture prompts prairie snow & ice memories December 12, 2022

Sakatah Carvers pack their equipment after carving an ice sculpture at the corner of Central Avenue and Fourth Street/Minnesota State Highway 60 in Faribault during Winterfest. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

ONCE UPON A TIME, which is longer ago than I care to admit, I welcomed winter. Snow equated outdoor fun on the farm of my youth in southwestern Minnesota. Prairie winds swept the snow into rock-hard mountainous drifts around buildings and windbreaks. My siblings and I pulled on our winter gear and for hours played atop those mountains and the snow piles mounded by Dad with the bucket of his tractor.

The completed sculpture. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

And then there were the icicles hanging along the milkhouse roof. Those became swords for hard-fought battles against one another. Ice clashing against ice until a sword, or both, broke. Somehow we avoided poking out each other’s eyes.

I found those icicles, some the length of our torsos, magical. They appeared seemingly overnight, glistening in the sunlight, water frozen clear and beautiful.

The other side of the sculpture, photographed from across the street, with part of the equipment to the left. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

Likewise, I felt the same about ice patches that formed on field’s edge. To slide across that ice in my buckle overshoes proved freeing and powerful. I was a champion figure skater in my own imaginative world. When the ice rink opened in my hometown of Vesta in the shadow of the grain elevator, I donned my Aunt Dorothy’s hand-me-down skates and raced from one end to the other, flying like the fierce prairie wind.

Today I no longer skate or engage in sword fights. Rather I approach ice with the cautiousness of a Baby Boomer who’d rather not break a bone. I avoid ice if possible.

The teddy bear sculpture up close, glistening in the holiday and street lights. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

But there’s an exception. Ice sculptures. These are a thing of beauty, reminding me of long ago ice ponds and ice swords and my once-love of ice. Artists who can carve a block of ice into something magical and beautiful garner my appreciation. That includes the team from Sakatah Carvers, Signs and Creations, who recently sculpted a teddy bear inside a stocking for Faribault’s Winterfest.

The second I snapped this frame, the ice carver blocked my view of the sculpture. But I like the results, highlighting the artist. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

While I didn’t witness the actual creation of the ice sculpture, I saw the warmly-dressed crew packing up their gear afterwards. It takes a love of winter and of ice to engage in this art form, which recalls for me prairie winters past of snow and ice.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


10 Responses to “Sculpture prompts prairie snow & ice memories”

  1. beth Says:

    I love art made from ice – beautiful

  2. Valerie Says:

    The sculpture looks amazing. I hope to see it sometime…hopefully it will last awhile. 😉

    I loved your memories of playing outside in the winter…it brought back some of my own fond, childhood memories of playing in the snow!

  3. The bear in the stocking just makes ya smile and brightens your day. I have a wood carving of a pelican named Pete by my front door. I love it and the details from the natural wood base to the white pelican with a yellow head and green eyes. We finally got the artwork up back on the walls – took a few hours – it just makes it feel more like home now (putting the rest of the reno on hold for now). Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  4. Those ice sculptures are simply beautiful. But it looks cold— very cold!

  5. Sandra Says:

    The multi-block ice sculptures at the Winter Carnival are not to be missed, always take too many pictures. Glad Faribault has one added to the fun downtown! For some reason they marvel me more than the snow, but they’re a talent too.

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