While Chicago is better known for its numerous summer street festivals, we do not let a little cold stand in the way of enjoying a little outdoor entertainment. After all, our most-famous son, President Obama once said that Chicagoans are a people of "flinty toughness" when it comes to the weather. In evidence of that statement, the city throws a the Snow Days Festival in the dead of winter, consisting mostly of a snow sculpture competition and related activities such as dog-sledding demonstrations and the creation of an man-made hill for human sledding.
Ironically, in all the years that I've been aware of its existence, the festival has fallen after a period of thaw has melted all the snow, such that there is no actual snow on the ground, and all the snow for the sculptures and the artificial sledding run must be artificially generated. Still, even if the weather fails to cooperate, the sculptures are quite the sight to behold. When I was little, I would hassle my father every time there was a significant snowfall to go outside and build a snowman with me. I only recall succeeding a scant number of times, and from what I can remember, our creations most definitely had nothing on the impressive artistry that I observed on Saturday:
This sculpture was inspired by Chicago's "Windy City" moniker. It features our trademark skyscrapers and a hat taken away by the strong breeze off the lake.
I was blow away by the engineering present in this statue of a lantern, my favorite piece in the show. I marveled at how the columns held up the heavy-looking roof, and apparently, so did the other festival-goers. This sculpture took second place in the contest.
Snow sculpture festivals are popular throughout Asia, and the top prize went to this creation from a professional snow sculpture team from China. I was struck both by the impressive detailing in her costume, the smoothness they were able to achieve on their surfaces, and the expressiveness of the statue's eyes.
I also liked this sculpture of sea turtles in a coral reef. As with the lantern sculpture, I was impressed by their use of negative space and precarious sense of balance. Plus, check out my building in the background -- how many people are lucky enough to enjoy this kind of artistry in their own front yard?