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Family ice sculpture a beacon for holiday spirit

This Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, photo shows the Olsen family’s ice castle, a sculpture they created using a 1989 Ford F-150 truck, Christmas lights and a sprinkler system. The sculpture, which lights up at night, is partially an homage to Russ Olsen’s father who used to build smaller structures at his home, right next  to where the Olsens live now, on the third-generation Olsen farm. Russ’s father died in 1996. (Seaborn Larson / Associated Press)
This Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, photo shows the Olsen family’s ice castle, a sculpture they created using a 1989 Ford F-150 truck, Christmas lights and a sprinkler system. The sculpture, which lights up at night, is partially an homage to Russ Olsen’s father who used to build smaller structures at his home, right next to where the Olsens live now, on the third-generation Olsen farm. Russ’s father died in 1996. (Seaborn Larson / Associated Press)
By Seaborn Larson Associated Press

KALISPELL, Mont. – It’s probably hard for drivers to not stop at the sight of a 20-foot-tall, Christmas-lit ice structure in the Olsen family’s yard between their home and Helena Flats Road. At night, the stalactites make the structure look like a glacial chandelier illuminated by Christmas lights woven underneath the ice.

“There will be a solid line of cars out here around Christmas,” said Russ Olsen, who built the ice structure in his yard. “It’s just one of those things that no one else does, so it’s fun to do.”

The structure, which the Olsen family refers to as the ice castle, was constructed with a 1989 Ford F-150 propped up on its nose with a beam for support. After running Christmas lights around the vertical vehicle, Russ ran an underground sprinkler hose to the top of the pickup and has kept it spraying a mist of water to continue building ice over time.

“We don’t do anything small,” said Angie Olsen, Russ’s wife.

Russ said he’s built about five or six different ice structures over the years, depending each year on the weather. A frozen formation two years ago succumbed to December rains and broke apart before Christmas came, reported the Daily Inter Lake.

“You’ve got to have a year when it gets real cold like this,” he said. “This one’s built out the best.”

While the glowing ice tower might instill some Christmas spirit in passers-by, the structure is partially homage to Russ’s father, who used to build smaller structures at his home, right next door to where the Olsens live now, on the third-generation Olsen farm. Russ’s father died in 1996.

“He only did a couple of them, but he just made them out of whatever he could find out back,” Russ said.

Russ built his first ice structure about 16 years ago. He’s used a number of different building materials; including a 30-foot telephone pole used for that first structure in 2000.

“He’s pretty creative,” Angie said. “(Russ) has fun doing it; he probably wouldn’t admit it though.”

Despite the Christmas castle in their yard, Angie said the family doesn’t heavily decorate their home during the holidays. Angie directs most of her decorating to her Columbia Falls business, Angie’s Greenhouse, which switches out flowers with wreathes and trees each winter. At the greenhouse, old vehicles are again transformed into art, such as the tie-die painted Volkswagen partially buried in asphalt in front of a wall of tires, each filled with colorful bouquets during the summer. Russ, with his paving business, helped put the vehicle in the ground.

But back at home, “We don’t have many other decorations; it’s pretty simple,” Angie said. “But I don’t know if you’d call this simple.”

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