Culinary arts students sculpt in ice for Winterfest

February 23, 2000

Ice sculptureBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

It's not easy to shape a seashell with a chainsaw.

Danny Blackstock tried Tuesday, but a bad cut split his shell into snowy shards. The sun was melting his medium, making messy work of ice carving.

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"You can work forever on one and the next thing you know, it will be destroyed," said the Washington County Technical High School senior. "So you say, 'well, I'll make the next one better.'"

Students from the school's culinary arts department are spending their week cleaving and shaving blocks of ice at Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex. Their sculpture will be displayed during Winterfest 2000 Saturday and Sunday.


Wednesday's warmer weather moved the group inside, where the teens worked near the skating rink in gloves, boots and caps. Power tools whined in the chilly air as they created a candle, a rabbit, a snail and other frozen forms.

Blackstock helped junior Nicole Troppman with her creation, a turtle whose broken head was falling off. They used water to fuse him together and packed loose snow around the wound. "My hands are freezing," said Troppman.

Nearby, senior Ciprian Lutai honed the contours of his penguin. He buffed the sides with a right-angle grinder, trying to round the bird's breast. Its wing was well-defined but Lutai wanted it to stand out more.

Ice sculptureIce sculpture is a unique challenge, according to teacher Michael Toth. "It's just such an abnormal medium," he said. "It's not something you see every day."

A professional chef for 17 years, Toth graduated from Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Mich. It was near a premium spot on the professional ice-carving circuit, he said. "That's where I got my first taste of it."

Toth is certified by the American Culinary Federation as a culinary educator and executive chef. He has taught students ice sculpture since coming to the technical high school six years ago.

He also makes custom ice sculptures. Before the class went to the sports complex, he showed them training videos and a demonstration. The students studied safety procedures and drew designs for their sculptures.

The sports complex planned Winterfest to relieve the colder season's cabin fever, according to Toth. "Everybody just sort of hibernates during the winter," he said.

The event combines athletic activities such as hockey games, public skating sessions and a three-mile run with health workshops. Organizer Gene Kornides suggested adding the students' work, said Carl Langford, general manager of the complex.

"It just sort of snowballed," he joked.

Kornides and Toth gathered donations, including a backhoe, forklift and hand tools, from several local businesses. A food distributor provided the use of a refrigeration truck, where the sculptures are stored each day.

Behind the building, Toth opened the truck's door and the blue shapes of an eagle, a dolphin, a swan and a seahorse glinted in front of stacked solid rectangles.

The students came up with three themes for the sculptures: "Winter Wonderland," "Fantasy" and "Under the Sea," according to Toth.

Waynesboro Ice donated or discounted many of the 150 blocks, which normally cost about $12. Some 21 companies also helped pay for the 45,000 pounds of ice. Each block is about 42 inches high, 20 inches wide and 10 inches deep.

Toth said he expects to make about 100 sculptures.

Jamie Shyda, executive director of the complex, hoped the weather would turn colder for this weekend.

"We had no clue we'd have spring-like temperatures at the end of February," she said. "It's uncanny."

Shyda said she was impressed with the students' dedication and behavior. A few came to the complex on Monday, a holiday.

"It's a pleasure for us to have them here," she said. "This is a gem of a program."

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