Over the last weekend of January, the Rockford Area celebrates winter via the annual Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition. With two divisions, the adult State Competition and the Rockford Area High School Competition, teams are challenged to sculpt their artistic dreams in three to four days from either a 6'x6'x10' block of snow for the State Competition, or a 4'x4'x6' block for the high school competition.

By the time I toured the park at 1 pm Saturday afternoon (the day of the judging), the crazy, nearly unpredictable Northern Illinois weather had already started taking its toll on the pieces. Regardless, I loved strolling through the park and gawking at these incredible works of art. Here are only a few from this year's competition:

snow sculpting 2016 1
"Bastille De La Gargouille" by the Frieze Masons (Chris Hanson, Sergio Aguilar, Ryan Ehredt)

snow sculpting 2016 2
"Jabba Awakens" by the Snow Troopers (Pete Goral, Joseph Goral, Kyle Wolfe)

snow sculpting 2016 3
"Hog Pile" exhibition piece by the ISSC's 2015 winners, the Kilted Snow Weasels (Randy Tackett, George Harnish, Grant Rundblade)

snow sculpting 2016 4
The ISSC's 2016 1st Place Winners as well as People's Choice Award Winners, the Quatsch-Men (Jack Gerard, Peter Hermann, Franz Volz) for their piece "Oh My Pumpy-Umpy-Umpkin"

snow sculpting 2016 5
"This Man is Mine" by the Vikings in Black (Svenhard Skupien, Bjorn Skupien, Thorfinn Skupien) unfortunately collapsed under the weight of a surprising January rain storm

snow sculpting 2016 6
"Bad Idea" by The Band of Misfit Boys (Scott Triplett, Dan "Man-Bear" Berry, Keith Pliml)

snow sculpting 2016 7
"The Sorcerer" People's Choice Award Winner for the high school competition by Byron High School (Caleb Denton, Savanna Harper, Erin Hays, Kiia Welte)

snow sculpting 2016 8
"Dinosnorus" by Marengo Community High School (Alivia Hansen, Grace Mussell, Stephani Ramirez, Kaya Tynis)

The Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition started with a chance encounter. In 1985, two local businessmen, Dennis Johnson and Brian Hampton, were snowmobiling in northern Wisconsin when they happened upon a winter carnival and snow sculpture created by Jim and Bev Neihaus of Eagle River, Wisconsin. They made arrangements to bring the young couple to Rockford, and in January 1986 they sculpted three pieces near what was, at the time, the Sinnissippi Park Greenhouse - now the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens. The sculptures were an American eagle, the Statue of Liberty, and the Liberty Bell. Many Rockford Park District staff helped in the execution of these large creations.

The following summer, Dennis Johnson was informed about a group in Milwaukee that sanctioned state and national competitions. He and Rockford Alderman Frank Beach visited Milwaukee the following day, and Rockford became the host city for the first Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition in 1987.


addie longberryAddie Longberry is a senior at Keith Country Day School with a passion for the community. Between classes, rugby practice, theater, her internship at the RACVB, and various volunteer activities, Addie can be found lounging at local coffee shops or local music venues with her friends.