- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

NORTH POLE, Alaska (AP) - Talen Bodda spent Saturday lifting heavy objects, enduring subzero temperatures and getting covered with a thick layer of ice shavings.

All in all, it was a pretty great day.

The 15-year-old Star of the North student was one of the participants in the first Christmas In Ice Junior Ice Carving Competition. As he shaped a 2-by-2-by-4-foot block of ice into an abstract star, even Bodda sounded a bit amazed at the result.

“It’s nice to be able to chip away at a block of ice and end up with something like this,” he said, gesturing to the design he’d spent the day constructing.

Four young carvers got their first taste of the art form on Saturday, when the North Pole ice park sponsored an event to get young people intrigued by carving. None of them had so much as chiseled away at an ice cube before, but with the help of an experienced mentor, each whittled their blocks into detailed designs.

Carmen Sonnek, 13, a Tanana Middle School student, turned her block into an intricate peacock, complete with individually carved feathers. University of Alaska Fairbanks freshman art student Agnes Lawson assembled the pieces for a teapot. And Abby Schram, 16, of North Pole High School, slowly scraped her chunk of ice into a penguin.

With patience and a lot of muscle, each spent the afternoon honing their pieces.

“I haven’t broken anything yet,” Lawson said with a smile.

Christmas In Ice sponsored the event to spark interest among young carvers. Most competitors are in their 40s or older, said executive director Keith Fye, and it’s time for a new generation of artists to emerge.

It’s a sport better suited for a young person, Fye bluntly admitted. He recited a long list of ailments his experienced carvers were enduring, attributing their aches to years of lifting and cold weather.

“We’re trying to get some of the younger generations involved to replace ones who are getting injured,” he said.

Despite those tribulations, it’s an activity that seems to get people hooked.

Two of the mentors on Saturday said they started as ice park volunteers, then couldn’t stop once they began carving.

Unlike other types of sculpture, ice can be transformed into dramatic shapes in just a matter of hours, said carving mentor Paul Pharr. Watching a 7-foot-tall sculpture emerge from a cube of ice can be a revelation, he said.

“Ice is one of the easiest things to work with,” he said. “With minimal carving, you can make something pretty spectacular.”

Fye said Christmas In Ice hopes to make the junior carving lesson an annual tradition. After seeing the progress made on Saturday, he said the first competition looks like a success.

“None of these people have ever touched ice before,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll be back.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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