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Since the 1930s, the celebration of spring with increasing daylight and temperatures has prompted local residents to celebrate with an ice winter carnival. In the early days, the Fairbanks Ice Carnival and Dog Derby featured the crowning of a king and queen who ruled from an ice throne. That tradition continues today with the crowning of the Pioneers of Alaska King and Queen Regents. Festivities during March have also included dog mushing with the Open North American Championship Sled Dog Race in its 65th year.
Since 1990, the World Ice Art Championships has grown from a week-long, eight-team competition to a month-long celebration with over 70 teams from around the globe. More than 100 ice sculptors and over 45,000 visitors enjoy this annual event. Over 34 countries and counting have sent the best of the best to compete.
Sculptors have nicknamed the huge natural blocks of ice taken from O'Grady Pond as "The Arctic Diamond" - so exceptionally clear that one can read a newspaper through it. Highly luminescent, local ice has been exported to Anchorage and as far away as the Bahamas and Israel. The characteristics of the ice - its depth, clarity and slight glacial blue tin - make it the perfect medium. More than 4.1 million pounds are harvested annually in two and a half ton blocks using specialized equipment such as 48' chainsaws, extend-a-boom forklifts and poles.
The 11-day competition features four events - the Single and Multi-Block Classics, the Amateur Open and the Junior Worlds. The resulting abstract and realistic masterpieces range in height from six feet to 30 feet tall and weighing in from 7,800 to 40,000 pounds. Glistening by day and illuminated by colored lights by night, this family-friendly outdoor event is open from 10 am to 10 pm.
Unlike a traditional concrete playground with metal slides and merry-go-rounds, the Kids Park features interactive huge ice slides, challenging mazes and kid-powered "twirlees" along with life-sized favorite themed-characters for kids of all ages. It covers four acres at the Ice Park and several years ago, an ice rink was added.
This 70-year tradition continues due to the efforts of over 400 volunteers serving on 90 committees.