There’s an eight-foot chestnut carved out of snow perched next to the arena at Central Park.
It’s standing outside the arena as a physical piece of the Art of Winter festival, but one of the snow carvers responsible for the giant tree nut said it’s also there as a metaphor.
“We’ve planted a seed here hoping the town nurtures it and it becomes an annual event,” said Jim Vergunst, one of the snow carvers featured at the festival this weekend. “This will become the Art of Winter seed that flourishes.”
Vergunst worked on the chestnut with fellow carver Denis Bolohan over the last three days. They estimate about 50 individual hours of carving went into creating the sculpture.
Art of Winter is a new festival in Collingwood organized by the town and taking place today through Sunday and celebrating outdoor winter activities like skating, snow carving, and snowshoeing.
Vergunst has helped organize the snow carving activities, which included a workshop today, an amateur competition tomorrow and a snow carving exhibit.
He helped start Sarnia Snowfest after winning his first snow-carving competition in Grand Bend in the mid 1990s. But his snow carving history dates further back than the 90s.
“I’m a Canadian,” said Vergunst. “I’ve been carving snow since I was a kid … snow forts, slides.”
Through his career, he’s competed nationally and internationally.
“It became a big thing for us, we loved it,” said Vergunst.
He and the other carvers often come from creative backgrounds like graphic design, and illustration.
For carving, man-made snow is the best, according to Vergunst.
Earlier this week he and his team made snow in one of the baseball diamonds at Central Park and packed it into cylindrical pool forms in various locations around the diamond where it will be carved. The snow is loaded in by shovel or snowblower and packed down by foot.
The galvanized steel forms can come off right away and the snow is ready to carve. From there, the carvers make some lines and chop off the excess before working on details.
His advice for the amateur carvers tomorrow is to be patient, try hard, and know it might not be perfect the first time.
For more details on the activities planned for Art of Winter tomorrow, click here.