Text and photos by Ray Balogh
SYRACUSE — Saturday, Feb. 13, was a picture-perfect day for penguins, hot chocolate lovers and a trio of ice carvers who rescued this year’s Wawasee Winter Carnival from complete cancellation.
The continuation of the festival, whose other events were scuttled by pandemic restrictions and a financial shortfall, rested solely on the shoulders — and chainsaws — of ice sculptors Ryan Frauhiger of Bluffton, Stan Horn of Churubusco and William Passino of Fort Wayne, all members of Michiana Ice Carvers Association.
Saturday’s events were organized by the Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber.
The three artists collaborated in crafting six sculptures in downtown Syracuse, each sponsored by a different local business.
“Basically, Ryan did three, Stan and I are doing three, and we all help each other out in the process,” said Passino, who has been carving for only 1 1/2 years.
Four of the carvings were located at the corners of the intersection of Huntington and Main streets and two were along Huntington, north of Pearl Street.
The sculptures, made from 350-pound, 40-inch tall blocks of ice, were:
• Bass fish on a hook, sponsored by Track & Channel Bait & Tackle, located on the northwest corner of the downtown intersection.
• Eskimo, Fidelity Title Co., on the southeast corner. The sculpture had a face hole for children to pose as an Eskimo for snapshots.
• Sailboat, The RGroup Team Realty, southwest corner.
• Logo, Lake Life magazine of The Papers Inc., northeast corner.
• Muscle man torso, Syracuse Strong, Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce, on the west side of Huntington, one-half block north of Pearl.
• Logo, Crossroads Bank, for its 100th anniversary, on the northeast corner of Huntington and Pearl.
Frauhiger, also a custom woodcarver, owns Forrest Carvings in Bluffton, and participated at last year’s festival by carving two sculptures on the grounds of Oakwood Park, the 2020 festival venue.
Horn was “up here three years ago. We did a large sailboat out of four blocks of ice. I was training two other carvers at the time.” Horn, a chef by trade, has been ice carving for more than 30 years.
At 71, he is the second oldest of the 16 or so MICA members who hail from “all over the area,” including South Bend, Laporte, Fort Wayne, Bluffton, Churubusco, and Niles, Mich. “The oldest guy in our group is 84,” he said.
LIke Horn, Passino is a chef. The youngest of the trio, he quipped, “I think they are using me because I’m the young one with the muscle,” noting he is doing ice carving “more every weekend. I’ve been to five or six locations in the past two months,” including South Bend, Shipshewana and Fort Wayne.
“We all enjoy it,” said Horn. “That’s why we are here, for the love of it.”