Hawaii’s team at the International Snow Sculpture Contest, part of the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, didn’t take first place. Or second, third, fourth or fifth.
But they went one better.
They won the People’s Choice Award.
“People were blown away by what we did,” said Dale Radomski, a team member along with Norimitsu Wada-Goode, both of Oahu, and Charlie Matsuda of Kauai.
Who wins, he added, is out of their hands. And while disappointed the judges placed other sculptures that seemed less creative higher in their ranking, Radomski said his team was proud and will be back.
“We’ll get them next year,” he said.
Then, 2020 will be an Olympic year, with the summer games in Tokyo, so there will be plenty of publicity building up to the 47th International Snow Sculpture Contest, part of the 71th Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan.
Already, Radomski is studying and planning their next sculpture.
“I’ve got some ideas,” he said Wednesday, while still in Japan.
Nine three-person teams competed. Thailand took first with its fish sculpture. Second went to Macao, China and its dragon sculpture. Third went to China, fourth to Finland and fifth to Korea.
The sculpture contest started Feb. 3 and wrapped up Feb. 6, with awards on Feb. 7.
It was a tough competition, Radomski said, with terrific work from all teams. But he did add sometimes creativity doesn’t seem to be rewarded.
“I’ve been here 17, times and 15 times the same sculpture wins,” he said. “Sometimes I wonder, ‘what are you guys (judges) looking for?’”
Nevertheless, it was a wonderful time. They were interviewed by the media on TV and in print, and the general public raved about their three-dimensional sculpture.
“They loved us,” he said.
The three men have competed in this festival for more than a decade, with a third-place finish to their credit in 2017 and a fourth in 2016.
An estimated two million people and swarms of media attend the Sapporo Snow Festival, and nearly every one of them makes their way to the snow-sculpture contest.
Matsuda was quick to credit his teammates — “these guys are incredible artists” — for doing well at the invitation-only event.
They use saws, chisels and sand paper to turn frozen blocks of snow into surfers, waves, hula dancers, canoes, sharks and turtles.
It’s demanding, physical work. They spent four days, about 12 hours a day, on their task.
“It’s like a brotherhood between us,” he told TGI in a previous interview.
The team members believed this year’s was one of their best.
“We’re happy,” he said.
Their sculpture — carved out of a block of frozen snow that’s about 10 by 10 by a little more than 20 feet tall — depicts a surfer riding the waves, the sun in the backdrop, with the shadow of a shark below.
“The story was about a beautiful surfing day,” Radomski said, “but you don’t know the danger below. Just like in life you don’t know what’s coming.”
Radomski survived when the scaffolding he was sculpting from collapsed and he fell some 10 to 15 feet to the ice below.
“I’m lucky I didn’t die,” he said.
It hurt. But he didn’t stop. He’s a tough 60-year-old. He got back up and returned to the task.
“We came here to do a job, and we did it,” he said.
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or email@example.com.