Cool carvings

January 29, 2009|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Ernie DiMartino's sculptures draw crowds. But his work is not the stuff of ongoing museum exhibitions.

It would melt.

DiMartino, 54, of Greensburg, Pa., sculpts ice.

His father founded the DiMartino Ice Company 41 years ago. Ernie DiMartino worked part time in the bagged ice business for years. When he was laid off from his full-time job in automobile manufacturing, he began taking college courses in business and art.

"I needed a way to make a living. I tried to create a full-time position," he said. "About the same time, I learned how to sculpt from a neighbor."

Before long, DiMartino was competing for prize money in ice sculpting contests across the United States. Now he spends winters carving before crowds at ice festivals.


DiMartino's ice sculptures will be the featured attraction Thursday, Jan. 29, through Sunday, Feb. 1, at IceFest 2009 in downtown Chambersburg.

Drawing designs is the first step in carving ice sculptures, DiMartino said.

"I had to learn how to draw. Three-D just came to me for some reason. When I was a kid I loved to play in the sandbox and make snowmen, but I never learned how to draw. Drawing is essential for sculpting," he said.

After he draws his plans on paper, DiMartino and a team of sculptors and apprentices set to work carving the designs on ice.

"First it's a process of addition. We fuse the ice together, in 265-pound blocks, into certain structures that will work for carving," DiMartino said. "Then it becomes a process of subtraction. You have to look at the ice and see what you are doing inside of it."

DiMartino uses a variety of tools including chainsaws, chisels, nailboards, die grinders, router bits, propane torches and household irons.

"Anything to alter the ice," he said. "It's 80 percent chainsaw, then 20 percent other tools for shaping detail."

Paul Cullinane, of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Chambersburg Inc., helped coordinate Icefest.

"This year we'll feature 42 one-block ice sculptures that are about 40 inches tall, and seven giant ice sculptures. They might be 6 or 7 feet high and 7 or 8 feet tall," Cullinane said. "We'll carve the giant ones during Icefest so the public can watch."

A Humvee, a teddy bear chair, a Civil War soldier, a penguin, the Liberty Bell and Eskimos with face cutouts will be among the sculptures. Cullinane anticipates a crowd of up to 15,000 people from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and beyond.

"It's a fantastic event. It's ideal to break cabin fever on a mid-winter weekend. Everybody needs to come out and enjoy it," Cullinane said.

If you go ...

WHAT: IceFest 2009

WHEN: 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29; 4:30 to 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30 ; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31; 1:30 p.m. to 3 :30 p.m.

WHERE: Downtown Chambersburg, Pa.

COST: Most events are free

CONTACT: Call 717-264-6883 or go to

MORE: Events include ice sculpting, chili cook-off, musical entertainment, fireworks

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