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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Chilly challenge captivates: Arborists, artists try their hand at ice carving

In front of Spirit Pruners on the corner of West Broadway Avenue and North Cochran Street in the West Central Neighborhood, owner Kelly Chadwick hosted an ice sculpture challenge with other regional arborists and artists.

Drinking beer, laughing, the folks gathered clearly were having a great time. If they were not sawing away on a frozen sculpture of a guitar, a peace sign, a swan or a torch they were huddled around a fire pit.

“It’s like cutting butter compared to wood,” said Dan Dengler, owner of Dan Dengler Arborist Spokane.

What had taken them about two hours to create out of ice, Dengler said, would have taken eight to 10 hours with wood.

The event has taken a more mellow tone than in years past, due to COVID-19. That hasn’t stopped the buzzing community of arborists, artists and friends from getting together to have a good time.

“We all climb trees. We stick to a standard, we’re not trying to steal jobs from each other,” Dengler said of his fellow arborists. “It’s a trade that attracts a unique individual. They say 70% of Americans hate their jobs, but arborists, all of them, love their job.”

Dengler whose sculpture was a delicately crafted swan, said the tradition began about five years ago, when he was invited by Paul Heindl, owner of Heindl Tree Care, to join them in the South Perry District for some ice carving fun. Last year, it took on a new shape, involving more and more of the arborist community after Dengler challenged Kelly Chadwick to a duel. The rest is history.

Dennis Fitzgerald, owner of Fitzgerald Ice Co. which supplies the ice, said the ice reaches it’s perfect carvable quality when “the water is constantly stirred using pumps – a process that also clarifies and purifies the ice.”

It’s a complicated but worthy process that ensures the ice does all but physically resemble the stuff made in home freezers.

The event had six arborist companies, as well as 18 carvers and professional artists. including Dario Ré, frontman of the Spokane band Heat Speak who recently released the new single, “Lost My Religion,” and whose ice sculpture, fittingly enough, is a guitar.

Organizers of the event hope to see it executed on a larger scale in the future , once COVID-19 no longer inhibits public social events.

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