Ice escapades

A battle of ice sculptors should heat things up at this weekend's Maryland Winterfest 2011

February 17, 2011|By Chris Kaltenbach, Baltimore Sun

The iceman cometh — to Power Plant Live on Sunday.

That would be Bob Roberts, and what he can do to a 300-pound block of ice is the reason why jaws were made with the ability to drop. With chisels, chain saws and a welcome flair for showmanship, Roberts can turn frozen water into just about any shape imaginable. Sunday, at what is billed as Maryland Winterfest 2011, he and some fellow ice sculptors will be showing off what they can do all in the name of raising money for breast cancer treatment.

"There are going to be some big, beautiful ice sculptures," promises Roberts, 52, who founded his company, Hot Ice Inc., in the 1980s. After 10 years as an executive chef, Roberts decided that he wanted to try something more challenging.

He appears to have succeeded; at the very least, it's even more impressive. Thursday morning, working in the plaza outside Power Plant Live with a chain saw, chisel and mallet, he transformed a massive block of ice into an ascending dove, complete with an inscribed message of remembrance for breast cancer victims — including his sister, Robin Roberts Glandon, who died in 1996 at age 34 — and the website for this weekend's celebration,

For the festival, Roberts and his staff will be creating a giant "Castle of Caring," a roughly 14-by-14-foot ice house that will dominate the plaza. He and his staff plan to start working around 4 a.m. Sunday, to have it finished by the time Winterfest starts at noon.

He had considered making it bigger, but the weekend's predicted warmish weather — welcome news for most, but bad for outdoor ice — is forcing him to scale back.

"Yeah, we had to take the weather into consideration," he says with a smile. "But we hope by 10 o'clock to have it most of the way done."

As much fun as Roberts plans to have — and to provide his audience — he's absolutely serious about the cause of raising money and awareness for the fight against breast cancer. Two of his sisters, as well as his mom, are cancer survivors, he says. After his sister Robin died, he founded the Robin Roberts Glandon Memorial Foundation to raise money; proceeds from Sunday's event will be donated to the Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Visitors to Winterfest will find more to do than gawk at a giant piece of melting art, Roberts promises. People can have their names, or their companies' names, chiseled into the castle. Live music will be provided throughout the day by Joker, the Riverside Drive Band and Hurricane Kevin. Twelve local chefs will be competing in "Seafood Chowder Bash 2011," with winners being chosen by the votes of those in attendance (which means lots of no-extra-charge soup for people).

And at 1:30 p.m., a group of largely amateur ice sculptors (meaning that, unlike Roberts, they don't make a living sculpting) will engage in a free-form ice sculpture contest.

"We give you one block [300 pounds] of ice and one hour. You try to make it beautiful," Roberts explains.

If you go

Maryland Winterfest 2011 is noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, in the courtyard in front of Power Plant Live, 34 Market Place. Tickets are $20 for adults, $35 for couples, $5 for kids 6-12. Children 5 and under get in free. Information: 301-464-4558 or

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