As an artistic medium, I imagine that ice would be much like the winter season itself – cold, unforgiving and tedious. When conquered, however, it can also be stunningly beautiful.
Case in point: The hand-carved works at the Crystal Garden, an ice sculpture display that graces Ottawa’s Winterlude each year. This year, 26 professional carvers from 11 different countries participated in the International Ice-Carving Competition, held in downtown Ottawa’s Confederation Park. The resulting works remain on display throughout Winterlude.
Yesterday, my two young daughters and I grabbed some good friends and went to check it out. While we had a lot of fun, my first piece of advice to those venturing out is to make sure you get to the good stuff; the best sculptures are under tents and behind ropes on the east side of the park. Since we accessed the venue from the west side (Elgin Street), we didn’t make our way to the larger sculptures till the tail end of our visit – when the kids were getting cold and wanted to leave.
But all was not lost; the west side of the park features an interactive, kid-friendly area that includes a wall made of small squares of coloured ice. Kids can pick out their ice from an assortment of plastic bins and add it to the wall (staff members help kids “glue” their ice to the wall by pouring water over it).
Next to the colourful wall, a fenced in area offers up piles of small, coloured ice blocks for stacking and general play – also a good source of fun – even for my eight-year-old daughter, who played alongside her five-year-old cohorts.
If you’re not planning to visit the Crystal Garden with kids, I would suggest going in the evening. In previous years, I’ve walked around the grounds after dark and it is a totally magical atmosphere; all of the ice sculptures are beautifully lit with coloured lights.
Last but not least, try to get to the ice sculptures early in the Winterlude season if at all possible. It’s strange to think that these amazing works of art will simply disappear – after so much energy and talent has gone into creating them. But as the temperature fluctuates and rises, that’s exactly what will happen; so enjoy them while you can.