The Forest Park Public Library kicked off its Centennial Celebration in remarkable fashion, with an ice-sculpting demonstration by Nadeau’s Ice Sculptures Inc., on Saturday, Jan. 16. The result was a stunning sculpture, with books displayed on top of a big “100.” A crowd of 50, mostly parents and young children, huddled on the public sidewalk to watch the magic unfold. 

The carver was the engaging “Hawk,” (aka Armand Ramirez) ably assisted by his helper, “Tony” (Antonio Rodriguez).

“We’re going to rock your world with ice,” Hawk promised the crowd, and they delivered. They positioned three large blocks of ice on a frozen pedestal and Hawk showed the crowd the tools he was going to use. These included chisels, angles, a plug-in iron, a chain saw and a blowtorch. Wearing eye and ear protection, Hawk warned it was about to get noisy.

The chain saw spouted a spray of ice chips that coated Hawk’s clothes, as he carved a book out of a smaller block of ice. He used the saw to cut the pages and a chisel to decorate the binding. He created three such books, one with its pages open, and positioned them atop the large blocks. Then he fired up the torch to cement the books in place.

“Water is like glue,” Hawk explained, “Fire creates the water to fuse the blocks.” 

Kids stood there wide-eyed, watching the saw pass through the ice and seeing the flames licking the books. Then Hawk attacked the large blocks. He first scored the numbers into the faces. Adults were amazed that he worked freehand yet was so precise in his carving.

As he grooved the large blocks into numbers, he playfully asked, “Who wants to use the chainsaw?” There were no takers. But when he asked more serious questions and kids answered correctly, he rewarded them with “frozen prizes.” Meanwhile, there was a run on the hot chocolate and marshmallows the library provided, with coffee finishing a distant second.

Other spectators warmed up by going inside and watching the show through the library windows. Erika Roman was in there with her 4-year-old son, Jonathon. “We always drive by Nadeau,” she said. “It’s good to see them in action.” 

Hawk and Tony were in action from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and the completed sculpture was shining brilliantly when they finished. 

The ice-sculpting event was yet another “beyond the walls” program dreamed-up by Adult Services Manager Magan Szwarek and her partner in fun, Alicia Hammond, who is the community engagement librarian. 

“We were looking at local businesses to partner with,” Szwarek said, “and we discovered we had a world-famous ice sculpture company right down the block. They work with the Blackhawks. They do the Zoo Lights. They work with major brands all over the U.S.”

“We wanted to have an activity outside that would result in eye-catching public art,” Hammond added. “We asked for the 100, but they added the books and design.”

“We trusted them,” Szwarek said, “and they exceeded our expectations. The chainsaw and blowtorch were spectacular, and the result can be admired. It’s a unique craft and a very unusual activity to experience. They brought little prizes for the kids. It was interactive artistry.”

“We had a fabulous turnout,” Hammond agreed. “If it stays cold, the sculpture could last a long time.”

The library has events scheduled throughout the centennial year. 

“We have a good mix of programs for kids and adults,” she said. Next up, a pop-up library at Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore on Saturday, Feb. 6. 

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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