By Leslie H. Dixon
BETHEL — All it took to get Ed Jarrett hooked on ice sculpting was a teacher with a chain saw and a block of ice.
That was 27 years ago when Jarrett, a Maine native and Falmouth resident, was a student at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., majoring in culinary arts.
“One block and 17 kids go at it,” said Jarrett of the single day that may have marked a turning point in his career, when students learned to carve a table centerpiece.
Today Jarrett has turned that experience into a mission to introduce the art of snow and ice sculpture to people of all ages and abilities throughout Maine.
As executive director of the Maine Snow and Ice Sculpting Foundation – the group that will bring sculptors from Canada, Vermont and even Alaska to Bethel to display their craftsmanship at Bethel’s upcoming WinterFest – Jarrett has developed and implemented his vision throughout the state in various events.
The foundation was founded in 2001 after Jarrett returned from 15 years in Rhode Island working in the hospitality field to help develop a winter festival in Maine and discovered no one in the state was involved in the art of ice and snow sculpture.
Seven years later, the foundation offers everything from apprentice ice carving programs to running the Maine’s Snow Sculpting Championship and ice and snow sculpting at other high profile events including the upcoming Bethel and Portland winter events.
Bethel Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Robin Zinchuk said the chamber came up with an equally challenging idea to last year’s world’s tallest snowwoman creation. They decided to bring in large ice and snow sculptures carved by international award-winning sculptures.
Zinchuk said the idea was initiated by a Bethel woman who interned for Jarrett and suggested the ice and snow sculptures. “I got in touch with (Jarrett) in August. He came up and we put the wheels in motion,” said Zinchuk.
Supervising the event is not easy, said Jarrett. Last week, high winds blew down the 140-foot long refrigerated tent that had just been put up and will eventually house the sculptures.
“I should have watered down the base,” said Jarret of the tent whose safety locks snapped. Watering the base freezes it into the ground, he explained.
With the tent back up, volunteers will blow snow into the forms, readying the site for the sculptors who will arrive New Years Day and begin carving on Friday, Jan. 2. Public viewing of the sculptures will begin on a week later on Jan. 9 and run through the weekend of Jan. 19.
Jarrett will work not only with the professional sculptors at the WinterFest, but apprentices from places like Vermont and Massachusetts. “They’ll be a potluck of carvers from from a good distance to Bethel,” he said.
Several free snow and ice sculpting demonstrations on a snow stage will be located next to the tent along with a field of snow people looking who can be dressed in the latest winter fashions.
Jarrett’s work with sculpturing spills over to the other areas including wood carving and sand sculptures.
He holds the world championship for tallest sandcastle at nearly 32 feet high. The feat, the second time he has held the record in eight years, is pictured in the 2009 Guinness Book of Records.
While Jarrett was formally trained in culinary arts, it is not something he has practiced full time, leaning instead more toward the management end of the hospitality field. He even tried a short stint at the Chebeaque Island Inn last summer.
“I think my wife misses it more than me,” he said of his cooking skills.
From Bethel, Jarrett will head immediately to Portland, where he will supervise ice and snow sculpting activities at that city’s winter fest.
• FYI: The grand opening for public viewing of the ice sculptures at Bethel’s WinterFest 2009 is Friday, Jan. 9, from 5 to 10 p.m. The viewing schedule will be Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The last viewing is Monday, Jan. 19 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Admission is $3 for adults; $2 for ages 13 to 18 and seniors 65 plus and $1 for children ages 4 to 12. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Children 3 years and under are free.
Bob Westfall of Bethel, right, and Ed Jarrett of Falmouth help prepare the site for BethelEd Jarrett of Falmouth is the executive director of the Maine Snow and Ice Sculpting Foundation. He is preparing the Bethel commons for the Bethel WinterFest 2009. A clay model depicts one of the ice and snow sculptures that will be carved during Bethel’s WinterFest 2009. The finished piece will stand 10 to 11 feet tall.