Sculptors turn Camden into an ice burg

Posted Jan. 31, 2009, at 5:13 p.m.

CAMDEN, Maine — Chips of ice flew off chisels Saturday afternoon in the Camden Amphitheatre as teams hurried to finish their creations for the town’s seventh annual Winterfest.

“It’s fantastic,” said Steve Hall of Rockport, who wore his son’s hockey jersey while he helped sculpt a pair of skates from a giant block of ice. “It’s nice weather, there’s nice snow — it feels good.”

As the skates took shape, they joined a world of creations that glittered in the sunlight. Onlookers walked around the amphitheater steps to watch the artists at work, and rollicking music played over the outdoor loudspeakers. Far below, the harbor with its winter-shrouded schooners shone blue against the blanket of snow that covered the town.

“Oh, boy, this is heavy-duty labor,” said Hank Lunn of Camden, who is on the Winterfest committee, as he checked out the hockey skates. “I think it’s beautiful. I think the creativity is wonderful with everybody.”

Encouraging creativity — and also a sense of community — was what the organizers had in mind when they first conceived of Winterfest. Lucinda Ziesing, an organizer who wore a jingling necklace of sleigh bells, said the festive event actually came about because of a dark time in Camden’s recent past.

“We had a lot of suicides at the high school in 2000,” she said.

As a response, adults and high school students joined together to create positive ideas for the town. One of those ideas was to “enliven” the parks and create ways for the community to come together during the wintertime.

“It happened to have historical roots. There was this festival in the winter in the 1930s. They used to bring huge slabs of ice from the pond. There was a throne and a queen was crowned,” Ziesing said.

Today, the ice is imported from Portland, but other elements are the same.

“I really do love it,” said artist Susan Beebe as she chiseled away at an intricate sculpture of an owl.

Beebe was helped by Ginna Scott, 5, who enthusiastically chipped at the owl’s rocky perch.

“Ginna has found her niche,” said her mother, Beverly Scott, of Camden.

Another mother, Jen Feldman of Camden, watched her two young sons prance around in the snow.

“I think it’s great,” she said of the event. “It’s a beautiful day — and it’s nice to get outside in the winter and see people we know.”

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