This ice is welcome on the streets of Dartmouth

While Nova Scotia had its fair share of ice this week, a different kind of ice was being made into street art in Dartmouth this weekend.

On Saturday, six artists carved 15 blocks of ice into a wolf, rabbit, beaver and moose — to name a few — for the Downtown Dartmouth Ice Festival.

“February tends to be a quiet time,” said Tim Rissesco, executive director of the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission.

“We wanted to encourage people to get out and walk around and check out our shops.”

A rabbit is among the ice sculptures along Portland Street. (Emma Davie/CBC)

But despite the icy weather in the province, the ice had to be brought in from Caraquet, N.B.

Rissesco said he looked to get blocks of ice in Nova Scotia but this was the closest place.

“It’s special ice made for carving,” Rissesco said, admitting he didn’t know what made the ice so special.

The man who does know is Richard Chiasson.

The chef from Caraquet, N.B. started sculpting ice in the 1980s and now runs his own ice business, and is believed to be the only producer of ice blocks in the Maritimes.

Richard Chiasson says his ice is the only of its kind available in the Maritimes. (Emma Davie/CBC)

“It’s the clarity. It’s crystal clear,” he said.

Chiasson explained that an ice cube, for example, freezes from six sides.

“[It] doesn’t have room for expansion, so it cracks,” he said. His blocks, however, are frozen from the bottom up.

“There’s no expansions, all the sides are on springs. Then it takes about four days to freeze.”

Chiasson also filters his water three or four times to make sure it freezes all the way through.

Each sculpture starts as an ice block: 20 inches wide, 10 inches thick and 40 inches tall. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Saturday’s blistering winds and chilly temperatures didn’t phase Chiasson, who works in a food service freezer set at -5 C year-round.

While many people were bundled up and shivering, he worked away cheerfully on several ice sculptures throughout the afternoon and praised the “beautiful” weather.

“If it’s below -10 C, the ice gets a little brittle and it can be dangerous for cracks. But at this weather, it’s just like butter, it’s perfect.”

Chiasson said working with ice is unique because unlike clay, for example, you can’t build it up.

“So whatever you’re going to do has to fit within that dimension,” he said “Basically, it’s adapting the carving to the block.”

Richard Chiasson carves a moose in downtown Dartmouth on Saturday. (Emma Davie/CBC)

The ice sculptures along Portland Street were done in flower planters, Rissesco said, to keep them safe from plows.

The rest of the event on Saturday evening includes music, free hot chocolate at several spots in downtown Dartmouth and collections to raise money for the United Way.

Rissesco said the sculptures will stay up as long as Mother Nature allows, but he’s hoping they’ll last at least two or three weeks.

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