U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championships in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

I love attending the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championships, held in early February in the pretty little resort town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

This annual event is part of the town's 2-day Winterfest celebration, and draws 15 of the top snow-sculpting teams in the United States. You know these competitors are in it for the art; they pay their own way to get here, endure freezing temperature and don't win any prize money–just bragging rights as national champs.

I'm always amazed at how these talented folks use just hand tools to transform 3-ton, 10-foot-tall cylinders of snow into stunning, gravity-defying works of art. In the allotted 3 days, they create inventive, complex and incredibly detailed masterpieces. And members of the three-person teams are always willing to chat for a minute about what they're doing.

All sculptures must be completed by 11 a.m. Saturday. Large crowds then review the finished pieces and cast votes for the “People's Choice” award.

There is no shortage of smiles as families walk by and admire the artisan's handiwork, then pose for pictures in front of their favorite.

Once a haven for wealthy Chicago socialites, Lake Geneva itself is a charming place to visit. Winterfest activities include horse-drawn carriage and helicopter rides, musical and children's entertainment and ice-skating on Geneva Lake. There's also a torchlight parade and a fireworks display.

Yes, it can be cold. But the passion and creativity of the artists is sure to warm your heart.

Fast Facts

Lake Geneva is where State Highway 50 meets U.S. Highway 12 in southeastern Wisconsin, about 45 miles southwest of Milwaukee and 9 miles north of the Illinois state line.

Winterfest is the first weekend in February (February 4-5, 2006); the snow-sculpting championships run from the prior Wednesday through the Saturday of the festival (February 1-4 in 2006). For more information, call the Lake Geneva Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-345-1020.

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