Crystals fill the atmosphere as a block of ice is shaved and sculpted meticulously into an animal shape. Wonder fills the eyes of parents and kids as they watch the sculptor turn the block into an alpaca.
February 12, 13, 19, and 20 at the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Michigan, ice sculptures are being featured next to the winter animal exhibits.
“We started with one weekend (last year), but it’s a total of four days this February,” said Adrian Ramirez, 34, the logistics specialist.
According to Carolyn Fabro, 34, special projects coordinator, all the ice sculptures are based on winter animals at the zoo.
“Arctic foxes, otters, our gray wolves, and our bald eagles are some of the ones that you’ll always see a little bit more active in the winter,” said Fabro. “Then, we’ve got some who are not North American but come from cold climates as well, like the snow leopard who obviously loves this weather and then the Amur tiger. He is from a region in Russia so he is really used to the cold weather, as well.”
Ramirez said the main goal of the Ice Safari is to fill the slow season with a public event to get people out of the house in the wintertime.
“It’s a winter fundraiser,” said volunteer Ann Bean. “Yesterday was very busy. I had 240 customers with the tamarins,” squirrel-size monkeys.
“At some point about a year ago I said ‘I want to have ice sculptures at the zoo and I want to call it Ice Safari,’ so I just searched ‘how do I get ice sculptures’ and I found Miller Ice Sculptures of Lansing and it was really popular last year,” said Fabro.
Other popular events at Potter Park Zoo are Wonderland of Lights, which takes place over about a month’s time, and the Zoo Nights series which is five days throughout the year, according to Ramirez.
“Traffic in the winter is a lot slower as far as public events go. We still get some private events in the winter, birthday parties and things like that. It definitely does decline a lot though,” said Ramirez. “We try to do as many indoor events as possible, but COVID has definitely put a damper on that. The Ice Safari would be a great example of something we came up with to try and keep customers coming.”
The zoo works at conserving animal species that are endangered to help raise the populations again. “People think that a zoo might be animals to entertain people, but it’s really about conservation, a reproduction of the species so they don’t die out,” said volunteer Ed Pinheiro.