News-Miner opinion: It’s well-known among those who those who desire to know such things that Fairbanks has some of the world’s best ice for carving. Our ice is intensely clear and dense. It’s been called “Arctic diamond” or “blue diamond.”
“It’s translucent. It’s so clear you can read a newspaper through it. It’s the clearest ice on Earth; it’s almost like crystal.” That’s what California dentist Joshua Kang said in a Chicago Tribune story about ice carving in Fairbanks.
That story, by the way, was published nearly two decades ago, evidence that the notoriety of Fairbanks ice isn’t some new revelation.
But, alas, the large blocks of ice that are harvested from local ponds will remain as nothing more than that — blocks — without the work of the ice artists and their array of tools.
And what tremendous works of art those carvers produce. Their pieces are on display now at two ice venues in town.
The 2020 World Ice Art Championships, located at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds, began Feb. 15 and runs through March 31. The site is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Tickets are available online at aktickets.com.
Now is a great time to visit the Ice Park. The multi-block, double-block and single-block competitions have each finished, so the park is full of completed sculptures by world-class carvers — carvers who include some home-grown Fairbanks talent as well as experts from Monaco, China, Russia, Spain, Iceland, Ireland, the Philippines, France, Poland, Latvia, elsewhere in the United States and, well, the list goes on. The World Ice Art Championships has made such a name for itself since it began in 1990.
There’s still one competition remaining, and it’s perfect for getting the next generation of ice carvers started: The Youth Classic Competition. Registration is noon to 5 p.m. Monday, with the competition running from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. The Youth Classic awards ceremony starts at 8 p.m. Friday, which also happens to be Kids Day at the park. For Kids Day, the purchase of one adult admission ticket allows you to bring in two children for free.
Today, Saturday, is Military Appreciation Day at the Ice Park, so admission is 50% off for adults and free for kids. Saturday, March 15, is UAF Day at the park. Admission is $8 with student ID.
If you are looking for another ice art experience, try the Ice Art Park at 3574 Phillips Field Road. The park is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through March 31 and features not only world-class carvings but also a kids ice park that includes slides, mazes, houses and playgrounds. Carvers from around the globe — Mongolia, China, Russia and, of course, the U.S., among them — have created remarkable works from the crystal clear ice.
Events later this month at the Ice Art Park include Kids Day on Wednesday, Military Appreciation Day on Friday, Seniors Day on March 19, and UAF Students Appreciation Day on March 21. Reduced admission fees will be offered to those groups of visitors on those days. Admission information is at www.iceartpark.com.
A big thank you goes out to the hundreds of volunteers — individuals and businesses — who make these events happen and to the carvers who bring us joy by turning our Arctic diamonds into mind-blowing works of art.