Elephant balanced on one leg winsPublished 10:57am Monday, February 8, 2010
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
Jim Houser won first place for carving a 440-pound block of ice into an elephant balancing on one foot.
His precarious pachyderm was not only people-pleasing enough to draw a crowd and to wrest first place from 2009 winner Mike Evans, who finished second, but also captured Carvers’ Choice at the 14th annual Ice Time Festival Saturday in downtown Dowagiac.
Carvers compete for $1,600.
Houser, who has been carving ice for 13 years, also won Carvers’ Choice in 2009 with a hornet.
What a difference a year makes.
Last time he was still trying to affix one of its wings as time expired.
The weather was too warm,” Houser said then. “I had to use slush to connect the wings.”
Not that Houser lets the elements affect him.
Houser skips wearing gloves, even performing on a 26-degree stage in Beckwith Park, although he proved with a warm handshake that he keeps so busy he doesn’t feel the cold.
Houser, executive chef for Parkview Health hospital system in Fort Wayne, Ind., debuted at Ice Time last year.
He also owns his own ice sculpture business.
Evans, of Edwardsburg, wearing his trademark New York Mets cap and shielding his crystal-clear abstract, Waves of Spheres, from solar clouding by the sun, won last Feb. 7 with a squid he described as “soon to be calamari.”
Evans works in food service at the University of Notre Dame.
He’s been carving for six years and competing in Dowagiac for five.
Another familiar high-finishing face at Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce’s 14th annual Ice Time Festival, Andrew Thistlethwaite, took the third prize with a dragonfly.
Temperatures reached 58 degrees at the 2009 Ice Time, prompting Chamber President Dr. Tim Dowsett to tell the culinary chefs as he announced awards, “We have nice puddles.”
He invited them back this year “for better weather,” which he delivered.
“I’m glad the weather cooperated a little bit better this year,” Dowsett said.
One thing which wasn’t different, was the outcome of the chili crawl, won by defending champion Beeson Street Bar and Grill.
Morgen Pittman and Kris Lamphere, owner of Who Knew? Consignment, counted 305 ballots, 121 naming Beeson Street.
Wounded Minnow Saloon came in second with 58 votes and Zeke’s third with 56.
Given the cold conditions, Hot Spot, the s’more bonfire and hay bales on Commercial Street with the police officers and firefighters of the Dowagiac Department of Public Safety, was even more popular its second year – especially when contestants for the Feb. 27 Miss Dowagiac Scholarship Pageant gathered around to get toasty.
Tuck Langland, fresh from singing at the White House and designing former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan’s official bust, judged the art created in two hours, from 1 to 3 p.m., along with city employee Sue Watson, representing Dogwood Fine Arts Festival.
Langland works in bronze “because it lasts a little longer,” he told carvers.
Langland created two of Dowagiac’s public art treasures, Dance of Creation in Farr Park and Resting Dancer by City Hall.
The city uses the former as its logo.
“As a sculptor with about 50 years experience,” Langland said, “one of the things I look for is breaking that block shape and finding forms inside the flat surfaces that move and turn opposed to the block.
“To me, that movement is one of the most important things.”