Downtown Stillwater will be bustling with activity this winter, even after the holiday snow flurries have settled. For the second year in a row, Stillwater will host the World Snow Sculpting Championship, which promises to bring visitors from around the globe.
“It was beyond anything we expected,” Stacie Jensen, communications manager for the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce, says about last year’s World Snow Sculpting Championship. Teams came from all over, and, with them, over 40,000 visitors. “What they built from these blocks of snow just absolutely blew us away. It was just a literally cool event, in all the ways,” Jensen says.
Planning for the sculpting competition started back in late 2020 when the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce, Discover Stillwater and the City of Stillwater joined together to brainstorm ways to bring business to downtown during the slow winter months. That’s when they discovered Winterfest in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and an idea started to snowball.
“That was the national championship,” Jensen says. “So we traveled there and looked at what this was all about.” Lake Geneva hosts the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship, but the organizers of the national event were looking to add a world event. “We started having discussions with them and signed an agreement to bring that event here to Stillwater for the next three years,” Jensen says.
The 2023 World Snow Sculpting Championship is predicted to be even larger than last year’s event, with 12 teams set to compete. “Moving into this year we have a better idea of what to expect and how to manage all of this,” Jensen says. “So we feel like this year is going to be even bigger and better.”
The competition will start with an Olympics-style opening ceremony, a ticketed event that anyone can attend. “We have a nice dinner, a little program, entertainment, live music. It’s that kick off to the event, that first introduction to the international teams,” Jensen says.
After the opening festivities wrap up, the competition bell will ring and the sculptors will be allowed to pick up their tools and start carving. “They can work through the night or into the early morning if they choose to,” Jensen says. Saturday afternoon the bell will be rung again and the judging begins. (Fun fact: The bell will, in part, be rung by the winning student artist from this year’s button contest.)
“[On Sunday], we have a closing ceremony where the winner is given their award,” Jensen says. “We do a big dance party and make it a fun event around who the winner is and people crowd around and see the presentation of the winner.”
For more information and to meet the international teams, visit greaterstillwaterchamber.com.