Ice fest brings warm smiles in Davenport Sunday

Originally Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013, 9:32 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 17, 2013, 9:49 pm
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By Jonathan Turner,

DAVENPORT -- Though Katy Perry wasn't playing at the booming outdoor speaker on 2nd Street Sunday afternoon, Matthew Meadows applied just the right combination of hot and cold to a dazzlingly detailed ice sculpture of a dragon.

Using a variety of power tools -- including a blow torch -- the Isle of Capri Bettendorf chef created his first dragon from two rectangular 300-pound blocks of ice in a little more than two hours, under a canopy outside Woodfire Grill in the first Icestravaganza.

Mr. Meadows has done ice sculptures 14 years. His work has included asimilar demonstration with eagles and pelicans at an outdoor festival in Dubuque a month ago and a sculpture for the recent Quad City Symphony Valentine's gala.

"Sun and ice don't get along, so you have to be careful," he said, noting the sculpture should be colder than 15 degrees to stay intact. Sunday, he said, was perfect.

Mr. Meadows said he most enjoys the "artistic element" of his temporary creation.

"It's physical, it's a workout. It's not sitting down with a canvas," he said. "They're 300-pound blocks. You have to maneuver them."

Mr. Meadows was among four ice sculptors who made frozen art before many families who enjoyed the free winter festival presented by the Downtown Davenport Partnership arts and culture committee.

"A lot of people have seen carvings, like at banquets. We wanted to show them how it's made," said Jason Gilliland, director of events for the Downtown Partnership, said of the sculptures, as he stood next to a temporary ice rink that didn't stay solid or thick enough for people to actually skate on. Kids of all ages still had fun slip sliding away in their shoes.

"It took all of two seconds for the kids to realize your shoes work just fine," said Kyle Carter, director of the Downtown Partnership. "The families and the kids that were here all had fun. That's the important thing."

"We were totally at the mercy of the weather on this thing," he said of the small rink. "It froze, then it thawed out. Then when it froze again, it heaved.

"Kids have been screwing around on it all day anyway. So it served its purpose," he said. "We learned some lessons about what locations worked best. We're wiser about it."

"Everything is an experiment this year -- from the hours to everything," Mr. Carter said."We've been happy with it."

The event -- whichclosed 2nd Street between Main and Brady -- was started to give the city something free and fun apart from the summer, said Mr. Gilliland. The event was postponed from its initial Jan. 27 date because of an ice storm.

"We want to get people active and outside, get some more family events," Mr. Gilliland said.

His hope is that Icestravaganza will grow as an annual event. This year's premiere event included free horse-drawn carriage rides, ice science activities from the Putnam Museum, shopping on the skybridge with Handmade City, live music and storytelling in the River Music Experience cafe, art displays from Bucktown and art activities by the Figge Art Museum.

Cathy and Russ Byrne, of Davenport, and their three kids were having a great time on the perfect, sunny day with a carriage ride from Galena Carriage Company.

"We went inside, had some hot cocoa, watched them do ice sculpture, played with the dry ice, went over to the skybridge," Mrs. Byrne said. "We bought some cupcakes."

Nichole Myles, of the Putnam Museum, showed kids a variety of activities using "hot ice" and dry ice. Hot ice isvinegar and baking soda, boiled, that turns into a snow-like solid as it reacts with the air. "It actually generates heat; that's why we call it hot ice," Ms. Myles said.

"It's all different kinds of ice today. Of course, we have dry ice, because dry ice is a fantastic substance," she said. "What I like about having dry ice out is, it's not water at all. We think all ice is water; this is carbon dioxide at minus 144 degrees."

Solidified, the dry ice vibrates on a spoon when you press it and the gas is released, an effect Ms. Myles called "screaming spoons." The dry ice also created steam and bubbles when she poured water on it.

"This is a really fun way to show the gas that's being released," she said. "Ice is kind of a fascinating substance. As opposed to what we normally think of ice, there are several different applications and types and styles of ice."

Icestravaganza also featured a vintage Davenport fire truck called a "Mobile Playground," used by the parks and recreation department, filled with balls and games. On Sunday, kids sat at the steering wheel and played with the truck's buttons and knobs.

Becke Dawson, owner of Sisters in Spirit International,108 2nd St., Davenport, was among the many independent arts and crafts merchants in the skybridge. Her table includedsmall Sri Lankan notepads and journals made from elephant dung paper. She also had jewelry, such as rings made from nuts, and "Punjammies" -- pajama pants from Punjab, India, made by people formerly in the slave trade.

SiS International sells "fair trade" items from more than 50 countries, she said, providing workers with aliving wage and healthy working conditions.

"With the time we spent in India, we all want the same thing for our children," Ms. Dawson said. "It doesn't matter where we are."


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