Ice carvers are a real chip off the old block

Fire and Ice festival will show off some really cool talent

The forecast this weekend calls for sunshine… great news for the thousands of people who will be flocking to Qualicum Beach for the 20th annual Fire and Ice Festival.

Hopefully the warm weather won’t create too many challenges for the ice carvers who will be chiseling into blocks of ice and transforming them into amazing sculptures.

There will be 18 ice carvers at various locations throughout town, some professional and some amateur but all vying for a cash prize.

On the panel of judges is Stewart McTavish and the culinary artist from Parksville who makes ice sculptures for events he caters said the carvers have to take the weather into consideration on Saturday.

“It is May… most competitions are in the winter so this is one of the more difficult ice carving competitions,” he admitted.

He said if the ice is carved the right way the design should be able to last despite the weather.

“If you carve it properly it looks even better as it melts… it goes crystal clear and there is a little bit of drama to it.”

McTavish has been making art work out of frozen water with the tools of the trade, chainsaws and ice picks for about 18 years now and he has been a judge at Fire and Ice for many years.

He said when he is handing out marks for the crystalline works of wonder there are several criteria.

“The first thing you look for is excitement… the wow factor, then the technical skill and difficulty of what they are doing.”

He said if there is a beautiful sculpture but he has  seen it before, he won’t be impressed.

“I don’t want to see a copy.”

He said the carving must be creative as well as symmetrical and there are some technical considerations that come into play.

“If they fuse a block of ice together it has to balanced properly so it doesn’t fall apart,” he said.

The ice blocks are made through a special process.  They are frozen in tubs of brine in an aluminum vat and there are tubes that go in and suck out air.

McTavish said the ice is a strong as granite but the blocks must sit out for three hours to temper them before they can be carved or they will crack.

“The ice should have consistency of hard soap before you carve it,” stated the accomplished carver.

Cash prizes are awarded for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd best ice sculptures. There will also be an Honorable Mention cash prize for the most interesting sculpture not placing in the top three.

McTavish will be using his expensive razor sharp chisel, (he paid $700 for it 18 years ago) as well as his chainsaw to create some ice art in front of Quality Foods during an ice carving demo.


If you want a feast for your eyes and well as your taste buds, don’t miss the fun filled day which goes from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in downtown Qualicum Beach May 5.



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