Winter Fests Desperately Seeking Snow

With this winter's unseasonably mild temperatures, winter festivals across the country have had to cancel. Chris Lenz, executive director of the Litchfield Chamber of Commerce in Minnesota, talks to Michele Norris about the state of the 2006 Frozen Lake Festival.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

It might snow in Vermont this weekend. Finally. A storm is predicted for the eastern U.S. No snow yet, though. Pretty much all winter, in fact, all across the northeast and the upper Midwest. This has been the warmest January on record for the United States, and that has meant trouble for organizers of winter events. Vermont's annual snow carving competition has been replaced with an ice carving contest. And to get that ice, they had to go all the way to Canada. They imported 30,000 tons of it. Troy Headrich (ph) is a stone mason who's competing in the ice carving. He plans to carve a clown car out of the ice block. It's a change from his original plan for a snow sculpture.

TROY HEADRICH: We had a beach blanket bingo kind of theme for the snow, but had to scale way down and do something a little more compact.

NORRIS: A clown car is scaled down?

HEADRICH: The clown car? Oh, yeah. Because we can, you know, hopefully turn this cube of ice into some nice swoops and curves, into a cartoon like looking car with some big clown heads poking out of it.

NORRIS: How big is it?

HEADRICH: It's four by four by four.

NORRIS: Snow and ice, just so different. I mean, snow, you can do what you want with it. It's compact, it's almost like dealing with clay.

HEADRICH: Yeah, and if you make a mistake, you can just put more snow and carve it back. Here, if we make a mistake, I think you gotta kind of change your design. So, it's a little less forgiving.

NORRIS: So that clown car may ultimately be something else.

HEADRICH: Maybe a unicycle.

NORRIS: Well, Troy, it's been great talking to you.

HEADRICH: Great talking to you.

NORRIS: That's Troy Headrich in Burlington, Vermont. Meantime, in Minnesota, they've had to cancel the second annual Frozen Lake Festival on Lake Ripley. Chris Lenz, the executive director of the Litchfield, Minnesota, Chamber of Commerce.

CHRIS LENZ: The first year and again this year, we had hoped to have the family fishing contest.

NORRIS: Ice fishing.

LENZ: Ice fishing, yup. The other thing we had was snowmobile drag races and snowmobile radar runs.

NORRIS: What's a radar run?

LENZ: Well, a radar run is kind of like you wanted to see how fast your car could go, you'd run it down the track and say, that does 92 miles an hour. And they do that with snowmobiles. And we have a radar gun at the end of the track and then it indicates how fast their snowmobiles went.

NORRIS: How fast do they go?

LENZ: The snowmobile drag race people, they went 140 miles an hour. And that's something to witness.

NORRIS: On a snowmobile?

LENZ: On a snowmobile on ice.

NORRIS: When did you know that you'd have to cancel the 2006 event?

LENZ: Well, in talking with the snowmobile drag race people, they said you've gotta have real quality ice, because as fast as those sleds go, if you've just got slush on top, these snowmobiles will actually dig themselves right through the ice and into the water.

NORRIS: You certainly don't want that.

LENZ: The other thing we were kind of excited about this year is, we added smoosh races.

NORRIS: Hold on, I wanna make sure I caught that. Smoosh?

LENZ: Yeah, it's spelled S-M-O-O-S-H.

NORRIS: Just like it sounds. What is it?

LENZ: I talked with our Frozen Lake Festival committee and they said you know, smoosh races were popular up in International Falls, so I called up there and talked to the chamber manager and they said, oh, yeah, smoosh races are wonderful. What you do is you take an eight foot long two by four, two of them, actually, and then you get a team of four people and they strap their feet to these eight foot long two by fours and they race from the starting line to the finish line.

NORRIS: So this is like a cross-country ski race or like a three-legged race with cross-country skis.

LENZ: Exactly. With four people on there. Yeah. One of the rules is you have to tie your feet on there with rope. You know, you can't staple your feet on or something. And they were getting kind of excited about that and now we'll just have to bottle up that excitement for an entire year. That's gonna be tough.

NORRIS: Well, Mr. Lenz, it's been a pleasure talking to you. Take care. All the best to you.

LENZ: Yeah. And we'll let you know next year if and when this happens.

NORRIS: Chris Lenz of the Chamber of Commerce in Litchfield, Minnesota, where they had to cancel their Frozen Lake Festival for lack of a frozen lake.

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