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Ice Carvers Think Beyond the Buffet Line

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Mastermind, the forthcoming animated 3-D movie from DreamWorks, is presumably a technologically sophisticated bit of filmmaking. So why's the studio promoting it via a medium associated with buffet lines and cruise ships?

An eight-foot tall ice sculpture of the movie's villain appeared at the State Fair of Texas this weekend; Fairgoers could pose with Megamind and score advance screening passes. In the 25 years since the first ice carving business opened, it seems ice hasn't lost its allure.

"Ice is such a special medium," says Jeff Petercsak, executive director of the National Ice Carving Association. While ice sculptures were first created as a pretty way to keep shrimp cocktail and other perishable buffet items chilled, Petercsak says ice is now just as likely to be carved into a shot luge or brand name. Ice carvers are also staging live performances, complete with lighting and sound effects.

"I don't think a stone sculptor could do a show," Petercsak says. "They'd get a few chips off the block and that would be it."

Petercsak says the ever-changing nature of ice appeals to audiences.

"As soon as you carve it, it starts melting," he says. "It's more of an experience."

Plus, he adds, "It's more approachable than an art gallery."

The ice sculpting industry continues to grow, although Petercsak says the recession's been a setback for carvers saddled with the high costs of ice machines and specialty freezers.

"A lot of people don't understand," he says. "They say 'well, it's just frozen water.' Just because it's the most common substance on earth, people take it for granted."

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