Religious freedom in ice

  • 2011-02-10
  • By Jared Grellet

40 tons of specially-made ice will be carved up into amazing designs by artists from 12 countries.

JELGAVA - This weekend Jelgava gears up for one of its biggest weekends of the year as 26 sculptors from around Europe embark upon the town for the 13th annual Jelgava International Ice Sculpture Festival.
Beginning on Friday evening [Feb. 11] the festival officially runs through the weekend, ending on Sunday [Feb. 13] at midnight but if ideal weather conditions prevail and delay the inevitable melting of the sculptures then the exhibit will remain open until the sculptures melt into oblivion.

This year 12 nations will be represented at the festival (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Netherlands, France, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Hungary, Finland, Ireland and Great Britain) with the final 26 sculptors being decided upon from the original 57 applicants who were interested in competing.
Russia will have the biggest representation at the festival with six entrants while Latvia and Lithuania will have the second most entrants with three each.

With this year’s theme set as “My Religion - Freedom,” potential participants were required to sketch their interpretations for judging from which the final 26 entrants were decided upon.
The majority of the sculptors are already in Jelgava, with many beginning work on their sculptures on Feb. 6, giving the competitors a little under six days to prepare their individual works with long hours going into each work that may last a little over a week before melting.

On top of doing their own pieces, a number of the sculptors will also team up to create larger pieces with prizes awarded to the top three individual sculptures and top three team sculptures.
Also for the first time this year snow will also be used as a material with Lithuanian resident Andrius Petkus, traveling north to create a 27 meter-long snow sculpture.

The sculptors themselves will be the judges of the competition, but in order to maintain impartiality in their judging an honorary jury will also be involved. The judging will be done before the show opens on Friday with an official ceremony taking place at 7 p.m. on the same day at which time the winners will be announced.

For the majority of participants ice is just one of many materials that they use for sculpting with some of the sculptors here this week having also previously appeared in the summer version of the event, Jelgava’s annual sand sculpting festival.
Irina Taflevskaya of Ukraine not only competed in both festivals last year, but did so with diligence with her sculpture entitled ‘Trough Another Worlds’ winning first place in the ice festival before she returned later in the year to claim third prize in the sand sculpture festival. Taflevskaya is in Jelgava again this year to defend her title.

If recent years are anything to go by the event organizers can expect crowds in excess of 40,000 over the course of the three days with many other events taking place for festival-goers aside from simply admiring the sculptures.
Using ice from the nearby Lielupe River, a 35 meter-long ice slide has also been constructed and will be open on Saturday and Sunday of the event. In addition to making the festival attractive for families there will also be a number of sideshows.
Local brothers Girts and Gatis Burvji will also be working throughout this week to design an 8-meter-long Smirnoff ice bar that will be fully operational serving drinks to patrons over the weekend while they enjoy live music from the park’s central amphitheatre.

Preparation for the festival is a drawn out process with 40 tons of special man-made ice required for the sculpting. The process of making the ice began in March last year in a specially built warehouse in Jurmala that allows the water to freeze over a long period with special machines used to remove impurities from the ice to produce perfectly clear ice.

Situated just 40km south of Riga, Jelgava is ideally situated for a day out of the city with trains and mini buses running to Jelgava regularly throughout the day with the journey taking a little over 45 minutes. Uzvaras (Victory) Park, where the festival is being held is approximately 40 minutes walking distance through the city center from the train station or a 25 minute walk from the central bus station. Entrance fee to the event is two lats (2,85 euros) per person.