Festival looks at building giant snowman

Annual Fur Rendezvous winter festival proposal earns mayor's approval

Posted: Thursday, January 01, 2009

ANCHORAGE - The first thing he'll need is a name.

Frosty Kong?


Or maybe just "Son of Snowzilla."

Indeed, the city of Anchorage is likely to face another giant snowman this winter. But unlike the renegade Snowzilla - that 25-foot behemoth that appeared in Airport Heights last week despite a city ban - this one has the mayor's blessing.

The plan is to create a snowman as tall, or taller, than Snowzilla in Ship Creek as part of the annual Fur Rendezvous winter festival, Rondy board president Ernie Hall said Tuesday.

"We'd like to make it huge," he said.

As of Tuesday, Hall hadn't compared notes with Billy Ray Powers, father of the guerrilla Snowzilla on Columbine Street. Powers' snowman is roughly 25 feet tall and, according to the city, a safety hazard and public nuisance in a neighborhood that's too small for giant snowmen.

The city says Powers amassed a whopping pile of fines and assessments, his place appears to be a junkyard and he's rebuked the city's efforts to work with him. Powers describes himself as "a welder and hobby blacksmith, a father and a gardener." He says the city's harassing and slandering him, and that it's city officials, not him, who refuse to negotiate.

Throw in a towering snowman in a top hat and you have a tale that swept the country this holiday season.

Snowzilla was an Internet hit for a time and a stream of cars and gawkers flock to see him each day. He's got his own Web site and T-shirts, and someone built a cluster of elf-sized snowmen "protesters" outside City Hall last week.

Fur Rondy is looking to capture some of that magic as the festival continues trying to reinvent itself from a fading tradition to a contemporary, can't-miss attraction. For 2008, the festival added the "Running of the Reindeer" - which is exactly what it sounds like - downtown.

This winter, Hall hopes to see the festival begin building its own giant snowman as early as late January, in time to welcome the annual snow sculpture contest held near the Alaska Railroad each year.

Meantime, Fur Rondy, which officially runs from Feb. 27 to March 8, could hold a contest encouraging people to build their own snowmen - regular, not super-sized - in front yards across the city.

Hall said he's talked to the railroad and to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich about the plan.

It's easy to imagine this new snow giant emerging as Snowzilla's rival. His very own Mothra.

But Hall said that's not the idea and hopes Powers will be involved in the Fur Rondy project, perhaps helping to create the new snow giant while demolishing Snowzilla back in Airport Heights.

"We would be thrilled to death if he said, 'Gosh, this is a great opportunity and I would love to build a bigger and better one down in the railroad yard,"' Hall said.

He asked a reporter for Powers' phone number.

The Fur Rondy board still has to approve the idea at its next meeting in January, but Hall said he's talked to other members and is "99 percent" sure the plan will proceed.

Powers, meantime, hadn't heard Hall's idea Tuesday night.

Sounds like the city wants to take away his snowman but capitalize on its popularity, he said. (Technically, Fur Rondy is its own independent nonprofit, though it gets some funding from the city.)

Still, Powers said, "Any time anyone talks about building a snowman, I'm all for it."

In fact, each snowman is an original work of art. That's why the Fur Rondy snow giant shouldn't share the Snowzilla name.

"Why would you make a painting of a beautiful woman and name it the 'Mona Lisa?'" Powers asked.

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