FAIRBANKS — While there will be no World Ice Art Championships next year in Fairbanks, there are plans for an ice art exhibition at the George Horner Ice Park on Phillips Field Road.
Ice Park owner Dick Brickley said he plans to host an ice event from Feb. 19 to March 31 that will feature a kids park and ice sculptures by more than a dozen international ice artists who had made plans to carve ice sculptures in Fairbanks for the World Ice Art Championships before they were canceled. Unlike the World Ice Art Championships, Brickley’s event will not be a competition, and will feature a significantly smaller number of ice artists.
Brickley said he’s also planning to host a Christmas lights event at the ice park this year. The Christmas lights event is scheduled to open in early December.
The nonprofit organization that runs the World Ice Art Championships, Ice Alaska, announced Nov. 19 that it would not be holding the international ice carving competition in 2018 because the organization hadn’t raised enough money to put on the competition. Ice Alaska plans to rebuild to restart the competition in 2019.
“When we heard Ice Alaska was going to cancel the competition we decided that we would open it up for an exhibition for the artists that had already designed their pieces and were planning on coming. We’ll just have an exhibition where we’ll give them ice and give them the space to do their sculpture in the big block area,” Brickley said.
Brickley has a long and complicated relationship with the World Ice Art Championships. The retired Army pilot worked as a volunteer for the Ice Alaska nonprofit organization since the 1990s. He loaned the organization about $700,000 in 2011, when Ice Alaska purchased what became the George Horner Ice Park on Phillips Field Road. The event urgently needed to relocate that year because the Alaska Railroad was evicting the event from its property. Much of the remaining funding to buy the George Horner Ice Park property came from a $1.5 million state grant.
Brickley later foreclosed on the organization, taking possession of the ice park property.
The George Horner Ice Park was the venue for the World Ice Art Championships from 2012-16. The park has also become the venue for the Golden Wheel Summer Spectacular, an event launched in 2014 after a contract dispute between the Tanana Valley State Fair and former midway contractor Golden Wheel.
The Ice Alaska board announced in September that Brickley and his wife Hoa Brickley were leaving the Ice Alaska organization, although at that time they planned to stay through the 2018 season to help with ice harvesting and construction of the kids park. When Ice Alaska announced the cancellation of the 2018 World Ice Art Championships, the board stated they may consider different venues besides the George Horner Ice Park for the 2019 event.
When asked if he wanted to host the World Ice Art Championships at his property in 2019, Brickley was noncommittal.
“I was as amazed that they canceled it as anybody. I sent a nice note to them saying ‘I understand your decision,’” Brickley said.
“We’ll just have to look at that,” he added when asked again.
Brickley has ice art ambitions outside the confines of the World Ice Art. He said on Tuesday that the December lights event will feature a preview for his plans for a future “sculpting world friendships park.” Such a park would have housing for international ice artists, which would defray the lodging costs associated with future events Brickley said.
“We’ve been wanting to do this forever, to have a cultural center for every country in the world. We’ll provide that facility to the artists of that country,” he said.
The phrase “sculpting world friendships” was the theme of the 2015 World Ice Art Championships.
The Brickleys plan to open their Christmas lights exhibition on Dec. 9. The front of the park will have a Christmas lights display blinking in coordination to music and the back of the park will feature a preview of the sculpting world friendships park with light displays built for different countries. The event will cost $20 per carload of people and will include one free ticket for the February ice art exhibition. The lights event will be open through mid January.
For the ice art exhibition, the kids ice park will open Feb. 19, and the artists will have from Feb. 20 to March 10 to complete their sculptures. The ice park will be open until March 31, or until the sun melts too much of the ice, Brickley said.
Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors