Northeast Tarrant

2 million pounds of ice make for a cool Gaylord Texan exhibit

With 2 million twinkling lights, 15,000 ornaments, a 54-foot-tall rotating Christmas tree and an “ICE!” exhibit carved from 2 million pounds of ice and featuring Frosty the Snowman, the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center is again offering a holiday extravaganza.

“The number 2 is big this year,” Gaylord Texan spokeswoman Martha Neibling said. “We have 2 million twinkling lights, 2 million pounds of carved ice, 2,000 pounds of glitter, two 25-foot-tall soldiers and 12 two-story-tall snow tubing hills made of 2 million pounds of snow.”

On Nov. 13, the resort will officially open its Lone Star Christmas attraction, which runs through Jan. 3. About 300,000 visitors are expected during the season.

Visitors can see Frosty and his friends on their quest to the North Pole in a colorfully frozen retelling of this original Christmas classic created in the 14,000-square-foot exhibit.

The spectacle includes an 8-foot-tall gingerbread house and gingerbread decorating, Santa’s workshop, cookies and milk with Mrs. Claus, 350 lit trees, 2,300 decorated wreaths, 5,600 feet of garland and 2,500 poinsettias; toy soldier stilt walkers; and, of course, a 25-foot-tall Santa Claus.

New is a live ice sculpting zone where master ice carvers create sculptures as visitors watch. Guests can bundle up in complimentary parkas and enter the wonderland kept at 9 degrees to enjoy the frosty scenes and special bonus rooms, including the Nativity.

Forty master ice artisans traveled to the Gaylord Texan from Harbin, China, to spend 30 days hand-carving the life-size characters and scenes from 7,200 blocks of ice.

Planning for ICE! began more than a year in advance when the theme was decided upon. Next was a trip to Harbin to review plans with the ice sculptors who would be coming to Texas and to enlist their creativity as to how to bring to life the characters and scenes to tell the story.

Working drawings were drafted, which translated art into the the practical, architectural task of constructing the ice sculptures. Then, refrigeration equipment was brought in.

The ice, which is created by the Harbin crew, features 13 colors such as blue, green, orange, pink, purple and yellow, as well as frosted ice that looks like snow and clear ice that looks like crystal.

Then the artisans began creating the attraction, much of which is done with hand tools perfected over centuries of ice sculpting in northern China.

“They follow an artist’s rendering, but they are so good they hardly have to study it,” Neibling said. “They’re like a piano player who hears music and then can play it. They just know.”

Lucy Shih, who serves as interpreter, said that being chosen for the ice team is prestigious, a craft that is handed down for generations.

“It’s almost their whole life,” she said.

Among this year’s group is a newcomer, Yuan Xia, the only woman carver.

The 47-year-old mother of one, who was working on the Nativity, said through Shih that she was a painter in Harbin when a friend got her interested in carving six years ago.

She is enjoying her first trip to the United States, especially because “people are so friendly here.”

Asked why she was chosen, Xia said shyly, “I practice a lot.”