December 18, 2009

Shades of Kubrick, monoliths sprout in Monument Sq.

Twenty snowblocks await carvers in Monument Square Friday night

Remember the opening scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece, when a monolith rises out of the earth, waking a tribe of sleeping apes?

Well, skip the apes, but be forewarned. Not one, but twenty white monoliths sprouted today in Monument Square. Kubrick never explained his ... but the origin of ours is clear: it's Winterfest, and 20 world-class snow sculptors will turn our snow blocks -- they are 4' x 4' x 8' tall -- into imaginative sculptures between tonight and noon Sunday.

Another difference between Racine and 2001 is the music: the movie's monolith appeared to the stirring strains of Richard Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathusta; ours will be serenaded by Christmas carols. (The movie link above goes to a wonderful animated exposition of 2001.)

When we checked in this afternoon, the last two snowblocks were being assembled, from snow trucked in from Christopher Columbus Causeway where it had been man-made over the past few days.

Fred Gardner, left, a retired engineer from Caledonia, IL, started smoothing his block, making the first preliminary cuts to what will become a huge version of the small clay sculpture on his workbench -- "Blind Date," he calls it. A snowcarver for more than 20 years, he has victories in Rockford, Lake Geneva and Montreal under his belt and is an Illinois State Champion -- just one of about a dozen champions tackling the snowblocks.

Some trepidation hangs in the air overhead. As Jeff Shawhan of Racine explains, and he should know, being both 2009 Chicago Champion and 2009 Wisconsin State Champion, the warm temperatures -- it was a balmy 36 degrees this afternoon -- are bound to affect the carvers; the snow may be too soft for some of the detail they had in mind. We shall see...

Snowcarving isn't all that's going on Downtown this weekend. On Monument Square Saturday, Santa will make an appearance.

And Downtown merchants have their Shopping Jam from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. -- with special treats for everyone in PJ's, and special offers and attractions all day. RAM has free admission in the morning, then a book-signing and a gift-wrapping contest.

Details of the snow carving HERE and the Shopping Jam HERE.

Snow is dumped into the last two snowblocks to be assembled

As night fell, a few sculptors got an early start...

...and kids met Santa or Mrs. Claus and their reindeer for pictures


  1. Let's hope this event brings customers and cash galore to our downtown merchants.

  2. We certainly could use the dough, For Racine, any recession is a depression.

  3. With all this talent, its a shame we paid $50,000 for the ugly red scrap metal thingy. Maybe we should have the contest with blocks of plastic or recycled tires and decorate the city permanently!

  4. Why are you tricks at the Post using more and more links for your stories??