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Finding Minnesota: Snow Sculptors To Compete In China

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- In less than three weeks, the St. Paul Winter Carnival will be in full swing. But right now an even bigger celebration is taking place in China, where two Minnesotans look to sculpt snow competitively and get inspired.

It's called the International Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, and this year, there's a Minnesota team in the competition.

The festival is about as fancy as you can get with snow and ice. It features elaborate ice castles and carvings, lit up with a spectrum of lights.

But it is the snow that has Kelley Casey of Roseville and Pat Mogren of Maplewood all pumped up.

They arrived in China Saturday, and they're the only team in the competition representing the United States. But before they boarded their flight, they told me what they expected China to be like and what they plan to create.

"You're treated like a rock star, kinda," Mogren said. "You really are. They pull out the red carpet and take care of you. Make sure all your needs are met."

Casey and Mogren are members of the Minnesota Big Snow team. They've competed in snow sculpting contests at the St. Paul Winter Carnival and others around the nation, and they've come up with some impressive creations.

When they first learned they would be competing in China, Casey was shocked. He even thought that the initial invitation was sent to him by mistake.

"I was on vacation at the time and said that I would deal with it until I get back," he said. "So when we got back from vacation, I sent another note out there saying we'd really like to submit to the event, and they wrote back and they said: 'We'd like for you to come. Is there a problem?'"

A design called "Native Spirit" is what the guys, along with two other teammates, plan to create once the three-day competition begins on Tuesday.

"[It is] a Native American Indian chief's head, with head dress," Mogren said. "One side … morphs into flowers and then goes into a buffalo skull. And then on the back side, there is a bear with an abstract waterfall with a fish. And the far side is like a drum."

One of the rules of the snow sculpting competition is that you bring your own tools, but no power tools are allowed.

The team's collection includes kitchen gadgets, construction tools, even stuff used to groom animals, like a horse brush.
Casey and Mogren seem pretty confident in their ice sculpting abilities, considering they don't plan to practice before they get to China.

"We will just jump right in. Well, we've have been doing it enough... over 20 years for me," Morgren said.

The two will be competing with about 15 teams from around the world.

The top prize money is $500, but it cost each of the guys about $3,000 in airfare just to get to China.

Obviously, they aren't in it for the money. They say the real prize is the experience and the chance to get some ideas for the upcoming St. Paul Winter Carnival, at which Mogren is the organizer of the snow sculpture competition.

For more information on the team's trip, just go to


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