Thousands attend ice festival Post-blizzard crowds visit Inner Harbor for more of winter

January 21, 1996|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

There's something surreal about attending a winter celebration for which snow-makers were called upon to create six inches of snow just days after the Baltimore region emerged from a blizzard.

Still, thousands of people dropped by "Baltimore on Ice" at the Inner Harbor yesterday, defying subfreezing weather to be enchanted by creations of the cold: ice sculptures, ice skating, snow skiing and a day of winter activities held outdoors.

Several people said they were delighted to have an outing after days of snowstorms and school closings.

"We had to delay our party until this weekend because of the blizzard," said Chris Buskirk of Baltimore. He accompanied a group of Millbrook Elementary School students to the ice skating rink at Rash Field, beside the Maryland Science Center, to celebrate the birthday of his daughter Kayla, 9.

Despite this month's record-setting snow -- some of which remained at the side of the region's streets -- there was no snow left this weekend at the fenced-in area set aside for the free snowshoe walking and skiing.

With a trace of amazement, Steve Eddy of Eastern Mountain Sports explained his dilemma. The sporting gear company provided equipment free to revelers yesterday.

"We came down two nights ago and spent two hours making a track in the snow" so novice skiers could glide smoothly," Mr. Eddy said. "Yesterday, of course, it all melted."

So they brought a snowmaker in, and ran it all night, from about 8 p.m. Friday to noon yesterday.

A day for smiles

It was a day for young lovers and those young at heart, for schoolchildren wearing festive headgear made from balloons and for parents wearing smiles from watching them. And it was a good day for celebrations.

"I brought a bunch of eight girls here for my daughter Brittany's birthday," said Christy Starr, 39, of Federal Hill, watching the pack of girls and her husband and son whisk with varying degrees of grace around the ice rink at Rash Field.

She declined to take to the ice herself, however: "It's not a pretty picture, me on the ice. Anyway, I have to be the nose-wiper and lace-tie-er and skate-exchanger for everyone else."

On the stone stairs of the Inner Harbor Amphitheater, several hundred people sat throughout the afternoon to watch four teams of ice carvers fashion sculptures, each requiring six blocks of ice. The teams used small chain saws, ice picks, propane heaters, clothes irons, cleaning spray and a score of other tools to chip and pester and melt the ice into shape.

The winning ice sculpture came from the hands of a pair of men from Richmond, Va., who depicted a cherub regarding Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek lore. The two men won $600 and a place in a national competition run by an association of ice carvers.

Favorite of crowd

The crowd-pleaser, which eventually took second place in yesterday's ice-carving competition, depicted "Puff the Magic Biker," which, true to its name, showed a Harley-riding dragon with its scaled head proudly in the air.

It was a bitterly cold day to be putting hands to ice, but its creators appeared more concerned about repairing the dragon's neck and head, which fell off, than the temperature.

"It's great," said Sandy Lompe, of Corpus Christi, Texas, as she watched ice carvers put the finishing touches on the dragon. "I'm from South Texas and they just don't have this down there. It's never cold enough."

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