Master ice carvers entertain small crowds in Manayunk

Manayunk shoppers paid a little more attention to Main Street’s storefronts on Saturday. Visitors and residents alike stopped, smiled, and pulled out their smart phones to snap photos of the 27 ice sculptures commissioned by business owners to celebrate the third annual “Manayunk on Ice” winter festival. But while pedestrians stopped traffic and parking spots were full, the street seemed somewhat empty for a Saturday afternoon, especially after last night’s successful ice bonfire.

Fear No Ice, the performance ice-sculpting company responsible for Friday night’s bonfire show, asked store owners to contribute thematic ideas and sketches before crafting the custom-designed carvings. Elizabeth Paradiso of Sweet Elizabeth’s Cakes loved the “topsy-turvy cake” outside of her store’s front door. “We’re psyched to be involved,” she said. Like Sweet Elizabeth’s Cakes, many participating businesses had Fear No Ice replicate their logos on sculptures approximately 3 to 4 feet high.

Onlookers could also watch five artisans shape ice blocks into detailed statues as part of today’s master-carving exhibition. Set up at different stations along Main Street, these ice carvers rivaled one another in a “bragging rights only” competition from noon until 4 p.m. During that time, the public could cast their votes for their favorite work-in-progress in front of the Manayunk Development Competition.

Dan Rebholz interacted with the crowd as he crafted a sculpture entitled “Hollywood.” “Vote for me,” he called out. “I’m from Chicago,” he said, teasing the crowd, “We vote often and many times.”

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Rebholz has worked with ice for 27 years. After seeing his first ice sculpting demonstration as a student in culinary school, he knew he had found his calling. Rebholz appeared on Ice Brigade, a short-lived reality show on the Food Network that followed artisans as they created ice sculptures for parties.

Down from Rebholz, Peter Slavin worked at a station set up in front of Winnie’s Le Bus. Slavin is one of the three founders of Fear No Ice. He and his partners, Colorado-based Scott Rella and Seattle-based Kevin Roscoe, have competed internationally in carving competitions, and their work has represented the United States in past winter Olympics.

“We really lucked out with the weather this year,” Slavin told NewsWorks. “We don’t like the rain and we don’t like the sun.” Slavin was less thrilled with media coverage of yesterday’s storm, attributing it as partially responsible for the day’s low attendance. “There were over 20,000 people here last year,” he said. “The sidewalks were packed.”

Sue Quigley, a volunteer with the Manayunk Development Corporation, said she noticed many out-of-towners as she handed out maps in front of Kevin Roscoe’s display. “People are really excited,” she said. “This isn’t something you get to see in person every day.”

Matt McKenna, 17, of Hatboro, and Alyssa Emig, 16, of Bensalem, agreed. Emig’s favorite sculpture of the day was a pair of pants down the street. She pointed to the clothing store Tag, where a statue of belted, baggy pants dripped onto Main.

“Manyunk On Ice” comes to end Sunday after the afternoon’s extreme ice wars. From noon until 4, carvers will compete in half hour sculpting face-offs on Cotton Street. At the end of each round, the crowd will vote for its favorite work, and the winner will advance until one person pockets $1,500.

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