Dan Rebholz and another ice sculptor sit on an ice carving of a motorcycle at the Fire and Ice event at last year's Huner Ice Festival. Rebholz is one of many world-class professional ice carvers who will be competing in Niles for the festival Jan. 15-17.
Dan Rebholz and another ice sculptor sit on an ice carving of a motorcycle at the Fire and Ice event at last year's Huner Ice Festival. Rebholz is one of many world-class professional ice carvers who will be competing in Niles for the festival Jan. 15-17.

Archived Story

Sculptor creates ‘ice magic’

Published 10:50am Wednesday, December 30, 2009

By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star

Dan Rebholz likes to live in the moment, which is a good characteristic of a professional ice carver.

Rebholz, who is one of many world-class master ice sculptors who will bring their skills to the Hunter Ice Festival in Niles Jan. 15-17, says he doesn’t mind that his elaborate works of art only last for a few days at the most.

“People ask me all the time. ‘How do you deal with it melting?’” he said. “But it’s OK that it melts and goes away. You just make another thing another day. I’ve carved thousands and thousands of sculptures in my lifetime. People spend months or years with other mediums to finish just one project.”

Rebholz, owner of World Class Ice Sculptures in Chicago, says there is something special about ice sculptures that capture people’s attention.

“It’s made from everyday water from the tap,” Rebholz said. “But once it’s frozen and sculpted, people are just drawn to it. We in the business call it ‘ice magic.’ It has this alluring magic to it that people just can’t believe it’s just ice.”

Rebholz actually was pursuing a career as a chef when he discovered “the magic” of ice carving. During culinary school, Rebholz saw his first ice carving demonstration.

“I saw my first ice carving demonstration, and right then and there I knew I had to learn,” he said.

Don Miller, the carver giving the demonstration, took Rebholz under his wing and taught him the trade.

Rebholz went on to work as a chef for Chicago area hotels for several years but spent his evenings doing what he really loved.

“I spent hours practicing on a dock,” he said. “It was a lot of trial and error. Sometimes they didn’t look good, and I kicked them off the dock and started over again.”

After reaching the level of executive chef, Rebholz realized the position “wasn’t all it is cracked up to be” and decided to pursue ice carving full-time.

After working for Ice Carving Enterprises in Chicago for several years, he started his own business, World Class Ice Sculptures, about 10 years ago.

Rebholz travels across the country and all over the globe producing intricate carvings for all kinds of events. Although the winter months are the busiest for his business, he does work year-round.

In addition to his business, Rebholz also participates in National Ice Carving Association (NICA) competitions. He took runner-up at the world championships in Alaska in 2006 and 2007 and has won several other major international competitions in his career.

Rebholz says that the Hunter Ice Festival is one of the biggest and best festivals he goes to throughout the year. He has been coming since it started in 2004.

“Everybody in town just loves it, and they’re so appreciative,” he said. “They love to stop and talk. The biggest pluses are that we get to out of the shop and carve live and see their reactions. Niles is such a great community for that.”

Rebholz reminds people to come out early, because the art will only last so long.

“It’s a one-hit wonder,” he said. “The sculptures will only be there for the weekend. If they don’t come out, they will miss it.”

SIDEBAR

Hunter Ice Festival by the numbers:

25 – Tons of ice to be carved during the festival
3 – Gold medals awarded to carvers by the National Ice Carving Association last year
10,000 – The number of people event coordinator Lisa Croteau estimates will attend the festival
5 – States represented by professional carvers
2 – New events at the Festival this year: A murder mystery theater dinner put on by the Four Flags players on Friday and a Frigid 5 K run on Saturday
100 – Dollars awarded to the best photo in the Hunter Ice Festival Photography Contest
1910 – The Hunter ice cream at the festival tastes like the product of 1910

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