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Looking to put championship on ice
Photo supplied Competitors at the St. Paul (Minn.) Winter Carnival ice carving competition, from left, Zoli Akacsos of Monroe; Greg Schmotzer of Hastings, Minn.; Chris Swarbrick of Ellsworth; and Bob Halverson of Baraboo, team up to take on the world at the World Ice Art Championships March 1-5 in Fairbanks, Alaska.
MONROE - Monroe wood carver Zoli Akacsos is Alaska-bound for the World Ice Art Championships.

Akacsos, along with his teammate and carving teacher, Bob Halverson, Baraboo, take off Friday morning, and will meet up with Minnesota carvers Chris Swarbrick and Greg Smotzer, forming a four-man team, to begin a 132-hour carving competition March 1 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

"We don't even know what we got ourselves into," Akacsos said. "Once we got accepted, we started freaking out."

The four men were the top winners in the multi-block division at the 2009 St. Paul Winter Carnival January 22-25.

"We all competed against each other in Minnesota," Akacsos said.

Akacsos with teammates Ray Denzer and Kirt Halverson took second place and the People's Choice award for their tropical scene "Vacation Island."

"Buzzsaw" Bob Halverson and Amy Hayes took third place and Carver's Choice award for their sculpture "The Last Supper."

Swarbrick and Smotzer took first place for "Fountain of Unicorns." Swarbrick also placed third in the Pro-Individual division for his sculpture, "3 Dolphins."

Akacsos and Halverson have wanted to attend the Alaskan competition for a while. This year they decided to try it, and asked Swarbrick and Smotzer to be part of the team.

The ice blocks used in Minnesota are "pretty small compared to (the ones used in) Alaska," Akacsos said.

St. Paul's Winter Carnival supplied 20 blocks of manufactured ice, 40x20x10 inches. In Alaska, the men will get 10 blocks of glacial ice, 6x4x3 feet.

Glacial ice is naturally clear and has a bluish color to it, Akacsos said.

Neither he nor Halverson has carved glacial ice before.

Akacsos and his team submitted their design of a Native American scene, named "They call her Spirit." The scene will include two totem poles, 24-foot high; a 19-foot high woman holding a dream catcher; and three life-sized horses.

"Everybody (on the team) knows what they are supposed to do," Akacsos said. "I'm doing the totem poles."

"Even when we think it's perfect, I'm sure we can find some more details to add," Akacsos said about their ice design.

Originally from Romania, Akacsos has been reading about and researching totem poles. The team also researched past Alaskan competitions and discovered "nobody ever did this (Native American scene) before in competition," he said.

The World Ice Art competition is pretty tough, with competitors from around the world, including Mongolia, Japan and China, Akacsos said. Live Web cams will be mounted to record each team during the ice carving, which viewers can watch on

Covering the cost of the Alaskan trip was a concern for the team at first.

Akacsos said they asked for one-half of their airfare from Halverson's sponsor, a main distributor of Swedish-manufactured Jonsered chainsaws. Jonsered came back with an offer to sponsor them fully, covering their full airfare and supplying the chainsaws and matching coats.

The World Championship award is worth only about $1,000 for each of the team members, which Akacsos said doesn't even cover the cost of the airfare.

"The championship award means more than the money," he said.

Akacsos was working off some nervous energy Tuesday at his wood carving business located on Aebly Road, Monroe.

"Time here goes much faster," he laughed.

Temperatures in Alaska will be about zero degrees, but the competition will take place in a park shielded from the wind.

Akacsos said he and Halverson even checked the location of the 10,200-foot volcano, Mount Redoubt, expected to erupt soon. Scientists have raised the alert level to "watch," the second highest state of alert. Mt. Redoubt is about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. Fairbanks is about 350 miles north of Anchorage.