With a ton of family fun this weekend at the Peninsula Winter Games those beautiful ice sculptures are showing up around town thanks to the volunteer efforts of the Soldotna Rotary Club. Last year on the club’s Ice Harvest Saturday the mercury was -30 below zero when they started their chainsaws, this year it was 30 above with a soaking rain that cause another set of challenges, “It’s wet and slippery, big difference from last year but it’s going great,” said event coordinator Dale Bagley, “This was a Jerry Near idea many years ago and has become a signature of the Peninsula Winter Games and photo ops for our winter visitors. But the last few years Jerry and his wife have decided January is a good time run south of the border for vacation so it’s been passed on to Brent Hibbart and me to rally the Rotarians.”
A Polar Bear jump has been an accompanying event for the ice harvest day many years drawing as many as a dozen or more members willing to take the frigid plunge into the open water to raise funds for the Rotary Foundation.
This year with conditions nearly too slippery to stand the only one willing to enter the clear cold water at the Foster gravel pit was the Rotary exchange student from Bolivia Carolina Cardario, “Coming to Alaska was an extreme culture shock, I had never seen snow before and when I heard of the ice harvest polar bear club I wanted to join and raise some money for shelter boxes that help in emergencies around the world and my goal is to raise $1,000 for these boxes. The water was cold and ice wet and slippery I wanted to jump but they weren’t sure how to get me out, so I dunked my legs,” Cardario told the Dispatch in a teeth rattling interview.
The demand for the ice has increased yearly with local businesses buying carvings to support the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Peninsula Winter Games. “They are really beautiful especially when light up at night and this year we cut 66 blocks of the clearest ice we have ever cut. It’s nearly 26inches thick and you can read a book through it it’s so clear. Usually there are cloudy sections due to the snow and freezing but this year it’s totally clear and will make for some beautiful sculptures. The rain and then refreezing will actually fill some of the cracks and that’ll make the carvers really happy,” added Bagley.
The 37th Annual Peninsula Winter Games will get underway at the Soldotna Sports Center at noon Saturday, January 26th “It’s all about the kids and there will be all kinds of fun and games indoor and outdoor activities,” reported January Yaeger, event coordinator for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, “We’ll have free game bags, face painting, a monopoly tournament, Jumpin’ Junction will be there with there jump houses, there will be ice bowling, hay rides and all kinds of great stuff in addition to the ice sculptures and slides and kick sledding,” she said.
For more information and complete Peninsula Winter Games details log on to www.visitsoldotna.com.