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There's no escaping the frozen grip of winter, nosireebob. (Who is Bob, anyway?) Not in February, not in the Badger State. Surely you are familiar with the adage: "If you can't stand the heat, move to Wisconsin."
No, you can't escape – but you can icescape. As in IceScape! '97, the annual celebration of winter's charms (hah!) in Appleton. Come February 14, 15 & 16, the whole dang town pretends winter is but a brief meteorological aberration unworthy of the fear and loathing it usually engenders in mortals. Residents frolic in the ice and snow like blithe pixies around a springtime maypole, and you're invited to join in the fun.
Headlining the event is the Wisconsin State Ice Carving Championship, a competition sanctioned by the National Ice Carving Association that draws participants from all around the country. With picks, saws, gouges and hot water, 10 to 15 professional restaurant carvers will transform overgrown ice cubes into things of beauty and wonder. The carving begins at 9 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday in Houdini Plaza.
If you'd rather not tangle with a block of ice, consider participating in one of the festival's sporting events in the Appleton area. For those hale, hearty and wholly deranged athletes for whom exercise knows no season, there is the Triathlon – a test of strength, endurance and outdoor protective gear. (TRAVELER has not yet received word on how the Triathlon organizers intend to conduct the swimming portion of the event. Ought to be interesting.) Has your broom been still since Halloween? Dust it off and round up a team for the curling tournament. Come out swinging during the hockey match, or participate in that related but slightly more genteel sport, ice skating. If your arm is strong, but your bursitis acts up in the cold, perhaps you'll warm up to an indoor snowball fight.
If any or all of this exertion fails to warm you sufficiently, you can partake of a draught from the World's Largest Cup of Hot Chocolate. Do Appletonians prefer their cocoa with or without marshmallows? With or without a snort of brandy? Only a visit to Icescape! '97 will tell.
In conjunction with the festival, the Fox Cities Children's Museum will feature plenty of activities for kids. Horse-drawn wagon and carriage rides, snow carving and other good winter fun are all a part of the day.
For more details and a schedule of IceScape events, contact Appleton Downtown, Inc. at (414) 954-9112, or write to the IceScape Committee, P.O. Box 2272, Appleton, WI 54913-2272.
TRAVELER'S tip: While you're in Appleton, visit the Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve, a 758-acre white cedar swamp with 7.8 miles of hiking and skiing trails. 4815 N. Lynndale Dr. Open 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Tues. – Sat., 12:30 – 4:30 p.m. Sun. (414) 731-6041.