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From Silver Skate to Sweden: Red Deer duo captures art in snow

Edmonton Silver Skate Festival features snow-sculpting duo
WATCH: Community Reporter Morgan Black is live at the Silver Skate Festival. There are lots of great stories out there, including one that features a snow-sculpting duo.

As Edmonton’s Silver Skate Festival celebrates 30 years of winter fun, a pair of Red Deer artists are celebrating their own lengthy run at the event.

In 14 years, Brian McArthur and Dawn Detarando have only missed one year of the annual Snow Sculpture Symposium.

McArthur has been “working in snow for 20 years,” ever since he saw snow-sculpting in Winnipeg.

“We start with big shovels and chainsaws. Then, if the weather is right, we use sanders and then finish with chisels and other polishing tools,” McArthur said.

“It’s reductive from beginning to end. You start with a drawing and then you start taking away the snow that shouldn’t be there.”

In Edmonton, McArthur and Detarando have spent days coaxing a tortoise and hare from Aesop’s Fables out of the snow for the 14th annual Snow Sculpture Symposium.

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“The snow is already pounded in the forms for you,” McArthur said. “You do some drawings on the surface and then you carve away and you sand away. It’s difficult to put anything back.”

READ MORE: Ice Castles returns to Edmonton on Friday for attraction’s 5th year

“I really enjoy being among these other artists [building snow sculptures] and seeing what they do,” Detarando said. “The event itself has grown exponentially.”

Over the past three decades, the festival has grown from a three-day event with 5,000 attendees to a 10-day event with about 105,000 visitors.

Before travelling to Edmonton in 2020, the duo’s talent took them to Sweden, where they spent 16 days carving the “Feline Lair” room at the Icehotel.

“It had a huge cougar at the bottom of the bed that was probably eight feet long,” Detarando said.

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“That was an exciting project,” McArthur said. “We were also in Winnipeg doing an ice stage for the Royal Canoe Festival. Then we’re planning to go to Yellowknife next week.”

While in Sweden, McArthur and Detarando met artists from all across the world, including Japan, Australia and Russia.

“We worked alongside them. It was great to see the diverse creations that everyone made,” McArthur said.

WATCH: Phil Darlington gets a preview of the 2020 edition of Edmonton’s Silver Skate Festival.

Preview of the 2020 Silver Skate Festival
Preview of the 2020 Silver Skate Festival

Silver Skate Festival organizers told Global News that at least 40,000 people came through the park on the first Saturday of the festival.

The event runs until Feb. 17, 2020 in Hawrelak Park.