Ice sculptors created an ice storm of their own Saturday as they sawed and chipped away on huge blocks of ice to create a medieval winter wonderland at Davenport's Freight House.
From dragons to knights, swords and a throne for sitting — all carved from ice, five regional sculptors showed off their artistic abilities during Icestravaganza to crowds of Quad-Citians out beating the winter blues.
"The conditions are perfect this year. There's no sun. We're out of the wind," Bill Gordish, an ice sculptor from Des Moines, said as he used a chainsaw to make a frog figure and greenery.
In an effort that began three days before Icestravaganza, five area professional sculptors transformed nearly 20,000 pounds of ice — specially produced for carving — into more than a dozen sculptures. The one-of-a-kind frozen creations, made from 300-pounds blocks, kept families busy admiring the craft and snapping photos on their cellphones.
Robert Storm, 48, of Moline, who has been sculpting ice for half of his life, was finishing up the detail work on a knight with a shield as spectators watched. A cook at Isle of Capri, Bettendorf, he does much of his ice work for the restaurant industry.
"A dragon," an excited 4-year-old Henry Page of Davenport exclaimed as Storm cut out the shape onto the frozen knight's shield.
"It's like snow when he's doing it," his 5-year-old brother Whitaker Page said of the ice chips falling from the shield. Holding tight to a little chunk of leftover ice, he planned to take it home to carve "a little thing maybe."
Their mom Meg Page, who also had her sleepy 1-year-old son Lincoln in a stroller, said, "This is all about getting out of the house."
For Storm and the other sculptors, Icestravaganza provides them with a stage to show their skills.
"This is a chance to work with 31 blocks of ice and do something huge," he said of a monstrous-sized throne completed on Friday. He estimated that the throne, which quickly became the grand centerpiece, took about 50 hours of labor.
The grand throne was a highlight for Joe and Dawn Rockwell's family, who like many families just needed to get out of the house. With daughter Chloe, 5, and son Jace, 3, in tow, the Bettendorf woman said, "We came to enjoy the ice sculptures and see something you don't see everyday."
Now in its fifth year, Icestravaganza began as an effort to offer more outdoor winter fun activities in the Quad-Cities, said Jason Gilliland, the Downtown Davenport Partnership's events director.
"Plus, we wanted to remind people that the Farmers Market and Freight House are open all year round," he said.
With the ice fun outside, the indoor Farmers Market was bustling with people shopping for homemade baked goods, cheeses, dips, teas, popcorn, wine, jewelry, student-made birdhouses and more.
"It's a lot busier than it's been in weeks," said Bridgette Steffen, owner of Butter Me Up, a nut butter company she runs out of her home in Cedar Rapids. With sales definitely up, she said, "They should have (the sculptors) every week."
Kyle Carter, the downtown partnership's executive director, said this year's event also included some adult fun with a first-time tasting event Saturday night featuring local distilleries, Front Street Brewery, Artisan Grain Distillery and Mississippi River Distillery.
"Our No. 1 complaint (about Icestravaganza) was that this was too busy," he said, adding that changes were made to stretch out the ice displays along the Freight House boardwalk and the parking lot as well as expand the hours with the new after-hours activity.
The event was part of the Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau's promotion Be a Tourist in Your Own Backyard Weekend, which runs through Monday. Meanwhile, Bettendorf held its own event Saturday, billed as Winter Carnival, with events at Frozen Landing Ice Rink as well as the library, Family Museum and Life Fitness Center.