TODAY’S TOPIC: Michigan City Turns Winter To Icy Wonderland
PLYMOUTH, Mich. (AP) _ An American Indian in full headdress stands solemnly on the street corner. Nearby, a huge bear roars from atop a rock, and the music fairly pours from a crystalline harp.
Those frozen figures and hundreds more, carved in lifelike detail from 440- pound blocks of ice, line Plymouth’s streets and fill a downtown park.
Among them are more than 200 sculptures by Japanese chefs, recognized as the world’s best ice carvers.
The Plymouth Ice Spectacular, which runs through Sunday, is the brainchild of Scott Lorenz, 29-year-old general manager of the Mayflower Hotel.
He got the idea from a CBS-TV ″60 Minutes″ feature on ice carving in Sapporo, Japan. ″I thought, ’Heck, we’ve got the weather here in Michigan, and we have the background for special events, so let’s do it.‴
The 4-year-old ice show has turned January, traditionally sluggish for shopping and tourism, into a booming month, Lorenz said. About 350,000 people attended last year’s festival in this city of 10,000 people, located 20 miles west of downtown Detroit.
New this year are the star carvers from Japan.
As the festival opened last week, crowds surrounded a lifelike Eskimo hunter, spear poised as salmon leaped about his feet in a stream. Carvers put finishing touches on a fierce-looking samurai warrior.
Students from Oakland Community College’s culinary arts school used a small plastic model and elaborate blueprints to hew a life-size Model-A Ford - parked illegally, of course, in front of an ice fire hydrant.
A frantic schoolteacher chased youngsters who pointed and ran in all directions, shouting with glee at a sparkling castle, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and two battling dragons, all brought to life in ice.
Kevin Enright, a chef-instructor at Oakland, said ice-carving is done mostly by chefs, who normally start out creating icy table centerpieces. The Plymouth show lets his students carve on a large scale and earn course credit at the same time.
Using tools ranging from chain saws to fine-bladed chisels and shavers, Jim Nadeau, 32, of Chicago, turned an ice block into a grinning rocking horse.
Nadeau, a former motel food production manager, learned to carve 12 years ago from a German chef and now owns a five-employee carving business in Chicago.
″I can do an eight-minute swan, a nine-minute eagle and a six-minute cornucopia,″ Nadeau said while the horse took shape. ″It took me about an hour to do this.″
But Nadeau and others acknowledge the Japanese are the best.
″Well, when you live in north Japan in the winter, there’s nothing else to do,″ Kuniyasu Ota, a Sapporo chef, said in halting English as his troupe finished work on a sparkling 8-foot pagoda.
He and his companions, Keiichi Oshio of Asahigawa, 1981′s All-Japan Ice Sculpture champion; Haruo Niiyama, a Sapporo chef; Akira Ogura, also a Sapporo chef; Tetsui Yamanaka of Sapporo, director of the Sapporo All-Japan Ice Sculpture Association; and Mitsuyuki Koya of Sapporo, 1984′s Ice Sculpture champion, cradle their treasured tools in leather cases.
After the show, bulldozers and trucks will knock down and crush the melting sculptures. But the carvers are philosophical.
″It’s just like food,″ Enright said. ″You work 10 or 12 hours preparing a fantastic meal and making it look just right, and it’s going to get consumed anyway. That’s the business.″
″It’s called planned obsolescense,″ Nadeau grins. ″When it melts, the customer just has to hire me back to make something else.″
″When it melts, it’s OK,″ Ota said. ″You just create something else, something new. It makes you have to do something different, and maybe, better.″