Ice exhibit coming to life at Gaylord Texan

GRAPEVINE -- Master ice artisans are carving and chiseling the final touches on 2 million pounds of ice, part of the celebration for Lone Star Christmas at the Gaylord Texan Resort.

Thousands of visitors are expected to don parkas, mittens and caps, as the annual holiday attraction opens Thursday and runs through Jan. 1.

Lone Star Christmas also features 1.5 million pounds of snow, an eight-lane snow tubing hill, 25-foot-tall nutcrackers, a life-size gingerbread house and a 52-foot rotating Christmas tree.

"We want to give people the full winter experience," said Martha Neibling, spokeswoman for the Gaylord Texan. "This has become a tradition for a lot of Texas families."

Work began on Lone Star Christmas in August, as crews started building a 14,000-square-foot tent to house the ice exhibit. Forty artisans from Harbin, China, arrived in mid-October to begin sculpting Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo, Melman the Giraffe and others to complement this year's theme of Merry Madagascar.

Harbin is known for its bitterly cold winters and exquisite ice sculptures, which earned it the nickname "Ice City." Ice sculpting is one of most respected professions in Harbin and often passed down through generations, Neibling said.

In Texas, the artists work 10 to 12-hour days, using chain saws, chisels, ice picks and food coloring to transform the 2 million pounds of ice into a winter wonderland. They travel with their own chef and a translator, although they are prohibited from speaking to the media by their government.

And while it may be unseasonably warm outside, the attraction is kept at a frosty 9 degrees to prevent the ice from melting.

Those attending are encouraged to wear hats, scarves, gloves and mittens, Complimentary parkas are handed out.

"Most people bundle up, but we always have a few who insist on wearing nothing but a T-shirt and shorts," Neibling said. "They are usually from up north and say they miss this weather."

Sarah Bahari, 817-390-7056

Twitter: @sarahbfw