In a tradition that has spanned generations, Parkland Nurseries and Garden Centre’s ice sculptures are back.
Parkland owner Gloria Beck is not sure exactly how long they have been immortalizing the Christmas spirit in ice.
“It’s over 30 years. We’ve been doing this a long time,” said Beck.
“We now have people who were young people when their parents brought them out to see it. Now, they’re married and they’re bringing their kids out to see it.
“So, it’s become a tradition.”
The ice sculpture park means a lot to Parkland and the businesses that help support it every year.
“We, along with our sponsors, consider this our Christmas card to the community.”
Eighteen businesses, including the Red Deer Advocate, have stepped up this year to support The Lion King-themed ice sculpture park at the nursery on Highway 11, just east of Red Deer.
As soon as the temperature starts dropping, the telephone calls start coming in, said Beck.
“The phone rings off the hook. They think they can pry the theme out of me,” she said with a laugh.
“Every year, we come up with a different theme. And it’s kept under wraps until the iceland is here and (the sculptor) starts working on it.”
Calgary ice sculptor Lee Ross is the man behind the hammer and chisel. He started getting this year’s display ready last weekend.
“He wanted to finish them by yesterday, but it went above 0 C,” said Beck on Wednesday.
Instead, Ross returned Wednesday evening to put the finishing touches on his creations, which are illuminated by floodlights in the evenings until 9 p.m.
Beck said she and Ross put their heads together earlier this year to come up with The Lion King theme.
“We start throwing ideas around. We’ve done a lot over the years. This year, we played around with what have we done, what would the kids really like.
“When you walk out there, you’ll notice the sculptures are sort of in a circle. It’s not as spread out as in past years.
“This is to represent the circle of life. There is meaning behind everything Lee does. He’s a true artist.”
Visitors will see most of The Lion King’s favourite characters, such as Simba, Nala and Zazu, among others. Scar and his hyena henchmen are also represented in ice.
The best part of the annual event is how it has been embraced by the community, especially families, she said.
“We’ve had tour buses come by. We’ve had families in limos who are going sightseeing. What we see are families coming out.
“We really do feel the spirit of Christmas here.”
How long the ice sculptures last is up to Mother Nature. In the coldest years, they have been intact almost until spring.
“Most years, by mid-January and into February, between the wind and the sun, they are starting to deteriorate.”
Unless a chinook comes through in the next week or two, it is a pretty safe bet the ice sculpture display will be at its best through the Christmas season.
Those who drop by are asked to bring a donation for the Red Deer Food Bank.