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Charity chiselers freeze out competition at contest

Visitors to Christopher Columbus Park this Presidents’ Day found themselves surrounded by giant cats, xylophones and lobsters battling dragons as part of the fifth annual Chisels & Chainsaws ice carving competition, which drew thousands of onlookers and eight teams of sculptors Monday.

Organizer and founder Nicole Seisler said the idea for an ice carving competition came to her while she attended art school because the medium encourages creativity. Seisler graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2004.

‘We really encourage artists to think outside the box and be daring,’ she said. ‘It’s ephemeral. I mean, it’s already melting, so you want to make something you wouldn’t normally make.’

While the event has always been held on Presidents’ Day because it is a well-timed winter day off for most students and families, this is its first year in the park, Seisler said. It had been held at the SMFA prior to this year.

Seisler said she was happy about the move.

‘The public can attend and interact with artists,’ she said.

Chantal Harris, a member of last year’s winning team, Chix with Chainsaws, said she loved the new location.

‘This is the first time we’ve been able to get out into a neighborhood,’ she said. ‘A lot of people have just happened upon it, which is really nice.’

The eight competing teams began carving their ice blocks before 8 a.m. and worked until voting by the public began at 2 p.m. A total of 1,027 votes were cast, which was an ‘overwhelming number’ organizer Dennis Svoronos said.

Harris’ team carved an ice ship and came in second in this year’s competition.

The winning team members chiseled their sculptures for charity. Tom Estrada and George Owen chiseled an ice-box that would hold public donations while two other team members worked on a sculpture of a homeless man sleeping on a bench. The team won the Golden Chainsaw trophy and $300 dollars. Estrada said donations would go to the charity Friends of Boston’s Homeless.

While most of the sculptors had a background in art, Boston Conservatory’s team used their musical background to inspire their work. The musicians placed in third for creating a working ice xylophone.

‘We’re all musicians,’ team member Alex Delgado said. ‘We’re trying to let everyone experience the music.’

Another team paid homage to Lady Pancakes, one of their team member’s cats, Alexia Cohen said.

‘It’s a funny-looking cat, so we decided to make a monument to it,’ Cohen said. ‘Nothing too conceptual about it – we’re just having fun.’

‘ Onlookers said they were intrigued and entertained by the event.

‘This is really neat,’ Matthew Sisk said. ‘It’s great to have these things in the city.’

Attendee Chris Pointon said the event was a great way to spend a wintry day off.

‘We’re a little cold,’ Pointon said. ‘But that’s got to be good for ice sculpting, right?’

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