The Icemen Cometh

Article Published: Jan. 24, 2013 | Modified: Jan. 27, 2013
The Icemen Cometh

U.S. Army Special Forces Ice Carving Team captain CW3 Jeff Lein carves a seal at the 2012
Blowing Rock WinterFest.
Photos submitted

Fascination with ice sculptures lies in their thin shaved corners, their prismatic play with light and, ultimately, the inevitable destruction of the image.

Ice is a stubborn medium – unforgiving to mistakes and requiring chainsaws, Dremel tools, chisels and knives.

For the second year, Blowing Rock’s WinterFest will host the U.S. Army Special Forces Ice Carving Team from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26, in Blowing Rock Memorial Park.

Members of the team will be present on both Friday and Saturday nights at the Green Park Inn to answer questions about their art and meet visitors.

The team will also hold a “family-friendly wet T-shirt contest,” Billie Rogers, Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce events director, said. “You take a wet T-shirt, roll it up and put it in the freezer. The first one to unroll the frozen T-shirt and put it on wins.”

Last year, the ice carving team consisted of four members, but after two were deployed, the remaining members are CW3 Jeff Lein and Master Sgt. Travis Jones, both stationed in Fort Bragg.

The two will create figures, like an eight-foot Pegasus and abstract shapes, from hundreds of pounds of thick, opaque ice.

In past years, WinterFest has featured Ice Sensations of Charlotte. But last year, the town of Blowing Rock was approached by the team, which asked if it could conduct demonstrations for practice.
Every year, the team attends Culinary Competitions, an eight-day ice carving event and branch of the American Culinary Federation.

“From noon to 4 p.m., about 2,000 people came by (the carving demonstration),” Rogers said. “It would not surprise me at all for it to be bigger this year.”

She said that people would wander to and from the tent, watching human-size figures emerge from maladroit chunks of ice. The team used many tools, including three different sizes of chainsaws, before features like eyes and hair slowly became enunciated.

“It really is watching an artist at work,” Rogers said. “And you know you have to see it right now, because it won’t be here in two weeks.”

The team forged pieces like a seal with an arching back, holding a ball with his nose and a cube with his tail. They built a 24-foot liquor luge on the patio of Green Park Inn, with liquor hoses encased in ice, along with ice shot glasses.

“If someone wanted a really cold drink, like a shot of Crème de Menthe or peppermint schnapps, they could drink it in these glasses and then shatter it on the patio,” Rogers said. “It was beautiful.”

The liquor luge will crown the front porch of Green Park Inn again this year and will be open Friday and Saturday night. The tasting begins at 2 p.m. and will be followed by the WinterFest Wine Auction. The auction will feature a selection of wines and wine-related items.

The team has already created 2,000 ice shot glasses, along with already fashioned pieces to be forged together at the event, Lein said.

Lein starting carving in 2003, while stationed in Missouri. In 2006, he was the Hawaii State Team Captain for World Ice Art Championships in Alaska. He is currently the USASOC Ice Carving Team Captain.

The cost of tools to facilitate this marginal, and large interest make it an all-or-nothing practice, so once Lein began carving, he decided to stick with it.

“I like working with my hands and crafting something that’s a novelty item for people,” he said. “I’m making a piece of art that people can stand back and enjoy.”

He enjoyed participating at WinterFest, because of some of the proceeds benefit wounded warriors and the “open arms” of the people.

Lein said that although the ice medium is easier to craft than bronze or clay, any interested military members should have a working knowledge of both before joining the team.

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Additional Images

U.S. Army Special Forces Ice Carving Team captain CW3 Jeff Lein carves a seal at the 2012
Blowing Rock WinterFest.
Photos submitted

At the 2012 WinterFest, Lein and his fellow team members transformed a chunk of ice into a seal with an arched back, holding a ball with its nose and a cube with its tail.

Bartender Mike Foley mans the Army-built liquor luge at 2012’s Winterfest.
Photo by Frank Ruggiero

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