Ice Festival Carves Out Home on Main Street
The Fête de Glace takes place Saturday.
On Saturday morning, John Russell and Naomi Hamamura will pack up their chain saws, hand saws, power grinders, irons, sanders and chisels and head for St. Charles.
These are the tools of the trade for ice carvers, and Russell and Hamamura will be among the carvers competing in the 13th annual Fête de Glace, or Festival of Ice.
The event will run from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29, in the 100 to 200 blocks of North Main Street in St. Charles, between Jefferson and Monroe streets.
"It's a beautiful art form," said Russell. "The way light bounces around inside the sculpture is what I like about it."
Russell, of the St. Louis ice carving business Ice Visions, has taken part in the event the past five years. He started out in ice carving while a culinary student. "It got too hot in the kitchen, so I though I'd go carve some ice," he said.
Hamamura, corporate chef for Wasabi restaurants, has competed in every Fête de Glace since the event began in 1998. He has been carving ice for 30 years.
"When I worked in hotels in Japan, ice carving was very popular," he said. "I used to compete all over the world but now I've slowed down. I love competing."
The festival features two ice carving competitions. The "monster" competition begins at 9:30 a.m. and ends at noon. Two-person teams and individuals will craft large sculptures using five blocks of ice.
There are six teams/individuals scheduled to take part in the monster competition, said Rose Wells, event chairman.
The individual competition will begin at 1 p.m. and end at 3:30 p.m. Ten carvers are scheduled to compete in this phase, which features one artist working on a single block of ice.
"There will be a lot of carvings, at least 16," Wells said.
Russell will take part in both competitions. He plans on carving a scene of penguins surfing on a wave for his individual piece. He's keeping his monster plan under wraps until the event.
"I think about it all year long," he said. "I see stuff I like and add to it or take away. It's not until the day of the event that I know what I want the piece to look like."
Russell said it takes from one to three hours to create a piece, depending on whether it's something he's done before. "Figures take longer than anything else," he said.
"It's artistic work. That's what makes it so interesting to do it," Hamamura said. "Ice is the most easy material to sculpt in."
The event is free to the public and the spectators will have the opportunity to determine the winners.
"We used to bring in judges to determine the winners, but now it's people's choice," Wells said. "We let the crowd judge. That makes it more interactive."
Adults and children can vote on ballots that will be available at the information booth located at the center of the festival. Awards will be given out between 3:30 and 4 p.m.
"It's great for families," Wells said. "It makes for a good get-out-in-the-cold day."
For more information visit www.historicstcharles.com
Editor's note: Naomi Hamamura was misidentified in an earlier version of this article through an editing error. St. Charles Patch regrets the error.