The St. Albert sky is partially cloudy, yet the sun’s rays still dimple across the fluffy, white snow, picking up glints of gold.
Tucked on 48 Fawcett Cr., a quiet residential street bursting with holiday spirit, an enchanting polar ice village exudes an aura of childlike magic and wonder.
The temperature is minus 20 degrees, however a truck on the snow-packed road crawls to a stop and neighbours walking dogs pause for a few minutes before briskly moving on.
If there is a St. Albert attraction that blows the lid off ice art, it is Corry Wood’s front yard landscape. The ice village, a combination of ice artistry and breathtaking construction, blends a six-foot church, a 25-foot long bridge over a frozen meandering river, a school and a cluster of houses.
Strategically placed throughout this wintry naturescape are three penguins, reindeer and a Santa sleigh flying into the scene. Despite all these cohesive elements, the picturesque village projects a spaciousness, much like the vast Arctic tundra.
“I love the challenge. I love new ideas, new ways,” says Wood, co-owner of Taurus Woodwork, a custom finishing company in Campbell Business Park. “And I like to build it all. It comes from nothing and in a few months I’ll put it under the trees. It’s here and gone, just like winter.”
This is Wood’s third ice creation. The first was a charming pond peopled by a few skating penguins.
“It was a challenge. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had 200 blocks and it took all winter,” he said.
Last year he constructed a 14-foot pyramid that radiated a mystical quality.
“When I was done, it was ‘wow.’ I actually did it. It actually worked,” he laughs.
This year what started as a simple meandering river with a bridge turned into a personal undertaking of healing.
As with all his other constructions, Wood used ice blocks. A meticulous record keeper, he used 4,090 litres of water to freeze brick-shaped blocks into 2.2 litre tubs. As a result of making his own material from scratch, the village has a gigantic Lego brick feel to it.
“I wasn’t actually going to do anything this year. But Kelly (his wife) wanted something small. Just something small to fit the penguins.”
But Wood is a perfectionist and he’d watched the concrete being poured when the bridges for Anthony Henday Drive were under construction.
“That gave me an idea on how to build the bridge. I piled a bunch of snow, made a ramp, put ice on the sides, lights in the middle and ice blocks on top,” he said.
But just as the bridge was nearing completion, Wood’s mother Donna, was diagnosed with lung cancer.
In dealing with this personal shock, Wood decided to build a simple church, complete with a cross on the roof.
“I’m not that religious. But this was all for Mom. She believes in God.”
“It became a symbol of hope,” Kelly adds. “Last year it was a hobby. This year it turned into a mission. It was a good way to deal with it.”
As the last few bricks were mortared into the church, a second tragedy struck with the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“It shocked the world. All those little guys got wiped out,” Wood says.
In a tribute to the fallen children, Wood plucked Little House on the Prairie from memory and bricked together an old-fashioned white schoolhouse with a Dollar Store bell.
“After that one corner of the yard looked blank and desolate. To fill it in, I started building a city. To make it look like a city I put in the Empire State Building. I always liked King Kong.”
This polar village has evolved slowly, with patience, love, humour and a great deal of thought.
“The church is for my mother. The school is for the kids. And the city is for all the people who come together to help them.”
Visitors from as far away as Jasper and Barrhead have traveled to see the village. And locals are walking off their extra Christmas pounds for a look-see.
“It all flowed perfectly,” Wood says. “It was meant to be.”
A food bank box is outside the house and donations are gratefully accepted.
As Kelly puts it, “Everyone feels better. They get to enjoy the scenery and somebody gets to eat. It makes us proud.”