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Eileson Air Force Base tech sgt. builds family of snowmen at his base home

Posted: November 27, 2011 - 1:10am
U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Brian Fentress poses for a photo Tuesday with his wife Eleni, their daughter Anastasia, 4,  and son Aydan,1, among snowmen he built in their yard on Eielson Air Force Base.  Sam Harrel / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Sam Harrel / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Brian Fentress poses for a photo Tuesday with his wife Eleni, their daughter Anastasia, 4, and son Aydan,1, among snowmen he built in their yard on Eielson Air Force Base.

FAIRBANKS — Some might say the Fentress family is a group of cold-hearted characters, but they wouldn’t be talking about the warm-blooded, living people. They would be talking about the family of snowmen and the hulking snowman guardian that Brian Fentress built outside his Eielson Air Force Base home.

The living family of four stood outside their house on Tuesday afternoon in below zero temperatures, looking at the frozen family that has caused a stir in the neighborhood. Brian, his wife Eleni, 4-year-old daughter Anastasia and 1-year-old son Aydan each have snow clones, all of whom are overshadowed by a 12-foot snow giant.

“She said she wanted a snowman,” Brian said, pointing at his daughter, Anastasia. So he built one.

Then, “she said she wanted a snow family,” he said, pointing at his wife, Eleni. So he built one of those, too.

Then, Brian decided he wanted to see how big he could go, and he built the giant. The big guy is really about 10 feet tall and has a 2-foot trash can on its head serving as a hat. A decorative wreath stands as a scarf, while vegetable cans serve as buttons and eyes. A bowling pin works as the nose.

A neighbor supplied all the accessories.

“He’s our bodyguard,” Brian said of the giant.

People driving down the street often stop to take pictures of the snow family. The family members are packed together in a bundle, keeping each other company. An inflatable snowman stands in the background of the Fentress’ yard, looking lonely in comparison.

The snowmen bodies were made with snow from the Fentress’s front, side and back yards and a neighbor’s yard. The powdery snow would start off looking like 12 inches but would get packed down to 4 inches.

When struck, the snowmen make a hollow chime-like sound. “They make good music, too,” Brian said.

Brian said he used no extra water in the whole ordeal.

Brian estimates he spent 50 to 60 hours working on the snowmen, more than a regular work week.

“Some nights, he was out here until 11:30 to midnight,” Eleni said.

He finished before the cold spell arrived.

Brian, a tech sergeant, is originally from Tennessee, where snow totals 2 or 3 inches per year.

“I didn’t think it was possible,” he said, looking at the snow family. He thought there was no way to pack the powdery snow down hard enough into forms.

Now that the snow family exists, though, Brian expects them to stick around for a while.

“I’m hoping June,” he said.

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