Category Archives: Snow

This’n that before I hit the sack

I had the house mostly to myself today as Claudia went to St. Paul to lobby our legislature with folks worried about the poor and homeless. It was also the week that Duluthians poured into St. Paul to lobby for Duluth. I got to stay home, read the news, grimace, finish Pardon Mon French – my next Reader column and finish Batman for my grandson. Here’s what will melt tomorrow in my front yard.

I also took a picture of a huge contrail over my house from a jet that circled twice. Wonder what that was all about?

I suggested that Claudia watch Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” as part of our viewing of French movies to get us in the mood for our trip to France. Then Claudia watched the CNN coverage of voting results in Pennsylvania. The Democrat Lamb (not to the slaughter) running against the Republican Suckthumb something or other. Poor guy was barely mentioned by President Trump, who came to Pennsylvania to huff and puff about how successful his Presidency has been and, oh yes, support Congressional Republicans. No final result yet. Lamb leads by a hair. We won’t know the results until tomorrow’s absentee ballots are counted. I think Lamb will win by a shake of his tail, maybe 350 votes out of over 200,000. Win or lose the Democrats will feel exultant and so will I. (Trump won here by 20% last November)

Time for bed.

Oh, I almost forgot. Tomorrow’s paper will have a story about how the School Board can’t wait to spend 2 million to tear down New Central High. As of my bed time 101 folks on Facebook have heaped abuse on the Board. That’s what I predicted would happen a couple days ago to friends but – last November Duluth elected a board mostly eager to turn the old school to dust. The lone exception? Alanna Oswald.

The story from yesterday on raising class sizes won’t improve voters attitude and neither will future plans to ask for more $ in a referendum.

As Minnesota is pulled down by gravity and sun

My children and my wife make sport over me whenever I began talking about natural phenomena. They all call out “glaciers!” when I get going. That’s because I got overly enthusiastic once when my kids were little explaining how even now, ten thousand years after the mile thick glaciers retreated under the sun the ground in Minnesota continues to recoil upward. Its just like a mattress after a sleeper leaves the bed. Its only a very little annual recoil, but still.

Gravity is having the opposite effect on my snow sculpture outline map of Minnesota. In concert with the sun it is pulling it down and making it squatter. I wouldn’t mind that so much but because I undermined the area under the Olympic rings it began a slow topple towards the hill below it. The picture in the last post from last night was taken after I was satisfied with its appearance. Half an hour later I looked out my front window to check on what seemed a dicey situation and discovered a fist-wide crevice half way up the sculpture where Minnesota was about to break at about Hinckley’s latitude. Instead of joining my wife to pick up our grandsons from school I raced out to prevent a disaster like California’s sliding into the Pacific.

Before I could pause to take the picture above I first shaved off much of the snow in the top front of Minnesota removing it five or six inches deep to take the weight off below. Then I replaced snow under the rings to give the lower sculpture firmer support. Then I punched holes in the back where the rift had opened up and shoved more snow inside so that there would be less of a void along the back of the sculpture.

In the process of doing all this the Sculpture suffered. The sides and circles got dinged and scraping away so much snow from the front exposed the Cat in the Hat. The cat portion was faded pink and an ugly blemish. I decided that the quickest fix was get out more red dye/paint and make the blemish a heart, rather like the one discovered on the proto planet Pluto. (that’s fun to say although it may be a dwarf planet)

That didn’t work out so well. The snow I painted was wet and in short order the valentine became a bleeding mess. One of the editors at the Reader came over to snap a picture and texted me to ask if the bleeding heart had been from a vandal. I sent him the clean picture but it was too late for it to become the front cover of this week’s Reader. Working on the sculpture may also have cost me my column in the Reader. I had thought I could get it done quicker but frittered away the afternoon that I had planned on using to write the “Wayning of America.” I turned it in at 9 PM and in my subject heading I simply typed, “I hope its not too late.”

If it is I’ll just put it in the blog.

This morning I scooped up some snow, put it in a plastic bin and took it to my basement to warm up. I also dug out the offending red blob and tossed it under my spruce tree. I used the melted snow to fill in the crater. I think the chances that Minnesota will last one more day have improved to 50/50. I wasn’t sure it would last overnight but it did with some new narrower crevices still visible this morning. The colder evening temps have stabilized it a little.

I’ve confessed before that I don’t mind the attention that my snow sculptures generate any more than an actor opposes applause. The loss of the Reader front cover has been made up for by Facebook. The preceding post is essentially what I put in Facebook 18 hours ago. Since that time it has gotten over 500 “shares.” I don’t recall getting 10 or 20 for any previous post. Its a felicitous sculpture on a subject dear to the hearts of any Minnesotan – our Olympic representatives. I suspect their success helps make up for the blowout loss the Vikes suffered in the Conference Championship before the Superbowl.

I’m enjoying my moment in the sun too; more so than my sculpture which will soon melt away.

One last school related obligation to attend to

An email I’ve just sent to Lowell Elementary School:

Dear Lowell Community,

Last year I was contracted to help build a snow sculpture for Lowell by a purchase of my services in a fundraiser to pay for mulch replacement. I was surprised a month or so ago to learn that Principal Larva did not know of this.

We are about to get 20 inches of snow according to recent forecasts and that will make for excellent snow sculpting conditions. I am open to any number of ways to honor my commitment. I could make something of my own design all by myself or I could do the same for any reasonable subject requested for example a school mascot.

I would also gladly work with students to show them how I sculpt and how they can sculpt. They could make their own sculptures with my direction or work with me to make a larger one.

The ideal conditions would be a period of just above melting temperatures which might require a little flexibility for scheduling. The teachers and or PTA might like a hand in thinking how best to redeem my obligation. Please email or call me at 218-***-****. I will be out of town next week when the snow flies.

Harry Welty

Make the Grinch Green Again

I did go swimming as I planned but haven’t started proof reading the last post. I spent the afternoon practicing French. And I decided the Grinch needed a fresh coat of color before the snow hits tomorrow or Thursday.

I used the bottles of what was likely food coloring but they faded pretty quickly so I did what I did on the Yellow Submarine. I mixed my acrylic paints into water and Voila, you can now seek Max the dog against a green and red backdrop of Grinchiness.

Passersby seemed pleased. My midnight visitors made the right choice…..even if it wasn’t mine.

Yellow Eyes

When I peeked out of my window this morning to check on the Grinch I saw that he had turned a shade of familiar green. It was not of my doing.

I had thought about giving the old coot some color early on but was so satisfied with his looks I decided he could keep the bleeched look. Someone else thought otherwise. Fortunately, they did a fine job of coloring Grinchy poo and Max’s scarf. I don’t encourage others to improve my work at night but I can find little aesthetic fault in this nocturnal change. However, it was not fully sufficient.

When I’d contemplated doing the same myself before abandoning the idea I knew that the Grinch’s yellow eyes would need attention. Well, when I found the frozen spray bottles of coloring agent I knew that since I couldn’t beat or undo the technicolor I would have to join in. Now the old Christmas thief has suitably sinister eyes – fit for the Oval Office if you ask me.

A cold shoulder for the Grinch

A small disappointment. Contrary to any thoughts that I’m all that humble about my snow sculpting I enjoy the attention the sculptures get. My current sculpture is pretty modest in size but the weather was perfect for me to gather up the modest snow in my back yard and sculpt it into the Grinch. It wasn’t quite melty enough so I had to cook it one lovely day that reached 33 degrees.

The process was described in this old DNT story:

The solution is to make his own wet snow. One way is to fill a tub with snow and let it sit in his house. About 7 years ago, he discovered a method he calls “cooking snow.” With this method, he pours water on a pile of snow and then covers this pile with other snow. The insulating properties of snow cause the whole pile take on a wet consistency that is good for creating details.

My Grinch is pretty good as is his trusty reindeer “Max” the dog. But what makes it is the inspiration of Donald Trump’s campaign slogan applied to Whoville. However, I couldn’t tempt the Trib’s photographers to come over and take a picture and KBJR which did mention it didn’t show a picture of it. Even my Facebook post only got 33 views. Pffft! Last year my Jabba was mentioned somewhere and picked up by Reddit picking up about 600 comments.

Jabba may have had one advantage over the Grinch. It was non political and some of the commentors spent by a harsh Presidential election enthused about that quality. That can’t very well be said about this one. At least no one took down my sign and the frigid weather we will be getting will preserve the Grinch nicely. Everyone returning to Duluth this Holiday Season will get a chance to take the Grinch in in his full glory.

My gift horse

A couple of days ago someone anonymously left a very nice gift and a suggestion at my door for a public art project. I took it that it came from a fan of my politics and my blog. It ended with the all caps request/plea “DON’T GIVE UP!! NEVER GIVE UP!!” Taped to the conclusion was a tiny pressed four leaf clover.

I very much intend to honor that plea. It was not really necessary but I appreciated the encouragement. I’ve planned to live to be a hundred since elementary school and in my college years I locked on politics and governance as my mission. I’ve been running for public office since 1976, 41 years ago. As a candidate I’m getting close to my sell-by date but I’m not sure being a candidates is my forte – witness my recent electoral defeat. Still, I think I’ve got more than vapors to run on. When I turned sixty, seven years ago, I presumed I still had another twenty years of sentient life left in me to do something useful. Despite the lapsing of seven years I am still keeping that twenty year horizon in view. Maybe when I turn 90 it will have shrunk to ten years.

Actually, its writing more than sculpture that I think will prove to be my métier. My eight loyal blog readers know all too well my yen to write a book. I yammer about it all the time. There’s a little alliteration in that. Or is that consonance? Its been a long time since my poetry unit in pre-college English.

The Public Art project my anonymous friend suggested to me was one about our tribalism. It sketched out for me two monolithic Easter Island like heads and suggested decorating them with different scarves to depict their mutual antithesis. In the gift bag were two huge, gorgeous pieces of fabric for me (or some sewing adept) to craft into scarves with the suggestion of intertwining them perhaps to hint that the tribes weren’t really all that different.

Well, I am too protective of my fingers to operate a sewing machine and I’m pretty resistant to other people’s artistic suggestions. Besides, a short time later an idea popped in my head that I subsequently put on my front yard that pretty takes sides with one tribe over the other.

Its often said we should not look gift horses in the mouth and I wouldn’t subject this gift to that kind of inquisition. I haven’t figured out what to do with the bolts of cloth but there were two other gift items I plan to use. One was a tea towel with “this is my protest dish towel” emblazoned across it. The protesters on it were doves which are famous for their moderation. I liked it. I’ve always considered myself something of oxymoron, in my case a “militant moderate.” I could be a petulant dove.

The other gift was a very loud pair of orange socks with the image of a fellow fighting a lion. Its legend said: “Thou hast balls.”

Why, yes, in fact. I think I do.

Oh, and if anyone would like to have some very beautiful fabric send me an email at:

My cat Moloch likes it too.


The “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.”

This is one of my provocative snow sculptures from 2009 as the Red Plan was proceeding at break neck speed. Some people took it as a commentary on the Duluth School Board. I never bothered to disabuse anyone of that interpretation.

Put in an order online with a donation to the Welty For School Board campaign:

Fifty snow sculpture cards for 30 cents apiece for only $15.00.

Get’m while they last – snow sculpture card 36 of 50

In consonance with the previous post and with this blog in general is card 36 of the series.

I did this close to President’s Day under a fairly warm sun so that this homage to the Lincoln Memorial was not fated to last long. Also, unlike my massive busts of other famous people, the head on Abe here is only a little larger than a real head.

A few days after sculpting this one fellow grumbled that it didn’t look like Lincoln – this after a few days of the sun taking its toll. That’s why I took a photo immediately after completing the job. ( I like the askew tie that sculpture Daniel Chester French showed in the original at the Lincoln Memorial). Some time later students at UMD asked me to sculpt Franklin Roosevelt out of snow using the newly discovered photo of him sitting in his wheelchair. It was to be built in honor of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Such photos were almost unknown in Roosevelt’s lifetime as he was always pictured from the waist up or standing and hanging for dear life to podiums. Sadly, snow is much harder for me to fashion into delicate features. They are better made large and viewed from a distance.

Put in an order online with a donation to the Welty For School Board campaign:

Fifty snow sculpture cards for 30 cents apiece for only $15.00.

Get’m while they last – Snow card 12 of 50

Shortly after I sculpted Bill Clinton in 1992 I added a saxophone for him to play. The AP (Associated Press) sent out the DNT’s photo of it in all directions and WDIO did an “on the Road” video about my making the Clinton bust that preceded the addition of the instrument. I had relatives around the nation call to tell me they’d seen it on their nightly news programs. That began a series of requests for me to make other sculptures elsewhere that allowed me to come up with far more than thirty snow sculpture trading cards.

One of the first venues to call was Cable, Wisconsin which wanted to get a little of the Birkebeiner glory that mostly went to sister city Hayward. I went there three successive winters and ended with this teddy bear. I was paid. Given a room in a local hotel. And the snow was piled up by heavy machines. It was heaven.

This is the final project I made for them and my inspiration was “Snuggles” the bear. It would be my last because I finally was elected to the School Board in 1995 and the five (leisurely) days I took to sculpt for Cable took a back seat to my new responsibilities on the Board.

This third attempt was almost thwarted by a heat wave which almost derailed the ski race. I finished a couple days ahead of the race’s start and poor snuggles melted to a heap of nothing. I got a frantic call from Cable begging me to return and fix it up and extracted a promise of a team of snow shovelers to help me loft the snow up fifteen feet. The replacement was done in a day and never quite achieved the snuggliness of the original. That has been one of the many challenges of sculpting snow – the weather. Often I finish on a hot day by the time the dark has descended and I can’t get a decent photo. The next day an evening’s melt can leave a bedraggled sculpture in its wake or melt it completely so that occasional passers by will never even know it graced my yard.

As I began passing out my packets one family had small children in the yard and I told them about the cards. Not all of them are cute. Certainly Donald Trump snarls out from the cards he is imprisoned on. But in this case a little girl found snuggles and squealed with delight about getting the teddy bear. I enjoyed that squeal.

Cards can still be ordered online here.

Get ’em while they last

I only have 50 decks left of my snow sculpture trading cards. I have parceled out most of the 20,000 total cards printed house by house one-card-at-a-time as I’ve traveled the City. Unless I get a lot more donations that’s what I will do with the remaining cards. – break up the fifty remaining decks and pass them out house by house. It looks unlikely that I’ll ask for a third run of them. They may really end up costing $1000 on Ebay.

Procrastinating buyers will have to visit my campaign web page and put in an order before they are all gone. (I call it my “campaign webpage but frankly this blog is my campaign.”

About the snow sculpture above. Its the first sculpture I fell in love with and that expressed something I felt about politics. I made it shortly after losing my first of three unsuccessful school board races. In what I now call a “Golden Age” we still had our troubles and I pictured them here as a “monkey on the back,” King Kong raising his fist over Old Central. Later my wife and I would come to call him “Phil” from a Farside Cartoon.

In the corner of each card I’ve put the logo I designed for a short lived publishing house I wanted to start, “Welty Press.” You will see the same image of Phil on each of the trading cards down in a corner. As for the colors on the card’s margins – there are five, yellow, orange, red, blue and green. I’ve selected 50 of over 100 sculptures and put them in chronological order. Yellows were the earliest years; green are the most recent.

Phil made another visit to my home after yet another campaign loss and this time he was a really big gorilla, about 16 feet tall from the sidewalk up. He was put on weather forecasts all over the nation after one of our local stations started the trend.

I’ll put up a card-a-day for the next 16 days to remind you to put in orders before the last fifty decks disappear. Better hurry, Some entrepreneur may decide to buy all 50 remaining decks as an investment although, if I get an unlikely avalanche of requests, I might order a new run of them to meet pent up demand. Don’t count on that happening. (Though I did just get a very nice donation with a note telling me to keep the cards for the campaign. Gosh, was that ever nice!)

“Daddy, make me a snow dinosaur”…

Another shameless pitch for a donation

OK, OK, OK. This blog is no “Go fund me” or “kickstarter” page. But my “eight loyal readers” have morphed to 500 daily readers. Not all of you are hating me as you read. Whether you agree with me or not I hope you find my blog engaging. I work hard at it and even go the extra trouble of editing it more carefully these days.

My foot is giving out going door-to-door and I gratefully find donations in my mail box every other day. (My door to door packet includes a return envelope with the suggestion that a donation would be appreciated). I’ve actually been able to keep my campaign’s financials on life support this way. As for my pitch for online donations? Early on, (two months ago), I got a $200 donation that gave me the altogether wrong idea about how I might be able to match the DFL money machine. The next two donations however were for $30 and $15 dollars. That’s right 3 donations in two months! My faith in my business acumen has been utterly shattered. I’m no Donald Trump!

Well, this is what my regular readers are missing – a 50 card deck of Duluth winter nostalgia.

I think they would be a great stocking stuffer for any Duluthian who has moved away from home. Count on this. Someday the 200 remaining decks are going to be listed on Ebay for a thousand dollars. Each! (probably by the time the Starship Enterprise has been built)

Donate here.

And this is snow sculpture trading card #2.

Its my first public snow sculpture and was prompted by my then first grade daughter, Keely, who asked me, “Daddy, make me a snow dinosaur.” I was beginning my duties as a “house husband” and imagined a towering Tyrannosaurus Rex looming over 21st Avenue. Gosh, was I disappointed. When it was done I called it an “iguana with a bad overbite.” I added a stegosaurus below it to make the prostrate “T Rex” look like it was in attack mode.

As people who have watched my perennial political career can attest I don’t let failure get in my way. It only pushes me to work harder and smarter. I had over 100 snow sculpture photos to choose from for my thirty year career that I suspect will be continued this coming winter. I get lots of requests (mostly non paid) to build snow sculptures elsewhere. I know my skills are modest but I do have a sense of humor e.g. “Barney meets Godzilla.”

I had originally imagined “selling” tons of these cards with lots of donations left over to help fund the Duluth Schools Educational Endowment Fund. Well, that hasn’t worked out but maybe I’ll be able to fund a mailing by the last week of the campaign if this offer catches on. Can any of my readers help me stir the pot on Facebook?

There will be old folks in their 90’s talking about the crazy guy who made snow sculptures in Duluth long after my battles over the public schools have run their course. They’re just fifteen bucks. That’s 30 cents a card!!!!!

“Eat that mistake”

I’m meeting a candidate for the school board election in seven minutes for coffee. You will have to find that quote in the Trib’s latest mulch news.


I’m so treading water trying to keep above the editors of the Trib and the special interests who want to keep the cozy status quo. That meeting this morning had been rescheduled ahead a week and I was a week early. Well, being a week early at everything I’ve been doing is how I’ll win despite the occasional aggravation it causes.

At least I got to return home with a scone and take my grandsons to school.

That story on the mulch is here.

I want to hear why paying more than we wrote a contract for is justified. I’ll be putting in a day of shoveling snow to build a snow sculpture at Lowell School this winter as my part in paying for the mulch. I offered to build one at a silent auction by the parents wishing to remove the mulch. The $600 bid was the biggest single sale. I’ll be darned if I’m going to do that work for the contractors. I did it for our children.

Card 43 out of 50 – One card short of a full deck

I have always been pleased by this snow sculpture. And yet at Bayfront Park’s Fall Fest one person winced when he looked at it. He was a teacher and was instinctively repulsed. Even after I explained its meaning he gladly accepted my offer of a more harmless looking snowsculpture.

Loren Martell warned me against using the spanking card (card 22 of 50) but I think even opponents of corporal punishment will find it sort of amusing. BUT THE CONFEDERATE FLAG???????

I took great care to explain this all to Robin Washington, one-time editor of the DNT, after he called to warn me kids were threatening to burn my house down over this sculpture.

After re-reading that post I realized there was little left for me to write about this 43rd card in my deck of 50, EXCEPT THIS: While I will keep it in the deck I send to donors I will pull every card 43 out of the cards that I pass out door-to-door or at events like Fall Fest. I think the other 49 cards in the deck will give this potent message of protest against the heroically denied racism of the neo-GOP a little context and cover. And it completes the deck!

And I will offer this for the irony challenged. This is a Rebel Elephant carrying the flag of the old Confederacy……The Elephant being the revered symbol of the Republican Party…..The party that was long called “The Party of Lincoln”…….who freed the slaves. They’ve been infested by southern Dixiecrat descendants whose grandparents loathed Honest Abe…..That’s why you rarely hear of Lincoln Day Dinners anymore.

I hope that makes it clear.

Trading card stories – Card 22 of 50

I had a heartfelt conversation with Loren Martell this morning before setting off to go door to door. He pleaded with me to remove this card from the pack. He was insistent.

I didn’t plumb the depths of his thinking so that left a lot of room for me to imagine his fears. First, he may have thought the spanking man’s actions were so violent or suggestive of violence that it would harm people’s perceptions of me. Loren’s wife was an art teacher and a he himself is a sensitive soul. I doubt that Loren has ever had much contact with such brutality……..except when the Duluth School Board had a Duluth policeman handcuff him after he stood dumbstruck at the microphone for community comment after the Chairman turned his microphone off.

Well, I got spanked a couple times in my life; once with a hairbrush. I had just burned the lawn down. But this was not a common feature of my household. For the first ten years I was a teacher, in the 1970’s and early 80’s, the issue of corporal punishment in schools kept being revisited in the State Legislature until finally it was pretty much outlawed. I think this was for the good but I’m not one who believes spanking should never be employed. I did burn down our lawn! On the rare occasions when it is employed there is one particularly important caveat – it must never be used in anger. If put to use it should be with regret, restraint and it should be brief.

In the case of this sculpture it is strictly metaphorical. My snowman is rendering it on the bottom of the imagined, but never caught, miscreant who pushed (felled) my “dancing bears” (trading card 21 of 50) down our hill. The DNT thought it humorous enough to put on the front page of their newspaper. I think its worthy of the trading cards.

Want the whole pack? You can get them online for a donation here.

NOTE: One of the bear heads survived the tumble and I placed it under the hand of the miscreant. Its in the lower right corner sticking its tongue out at him.

Snowy friend

I’ve spent hours trying to take this photo from my Flickr and put it belatedly into my snowsculpting page where it should have been placed in March of 2015. This was the briefest of snow sculptures which I built for some Duluth spring enthusiasts after they agreed to pile the last and most recent snow on Canal Park into a pile for me to sculpt. They were going to have a bonfire and cook smores to welcome in Spring. This was an idea I found on the Internet of the March wind blowing in the new season.

Here’s the front view:

I once played a bit part on Jimmy Kimmel’s show…

…which I only recalled late last night. It was back in 2004. This mention of the occasion in the News Tribune was published two years later. A local radio station asked me to show up at Mr. Birkedahl’s residence to offer commentary for Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show which got one of the local television stations to show up and live video the event so that Mr. Birkedahl could be interviewed. Jimmy didn’t seem to be very impressed.

Back then I’d never seen Kimmel’s show but knew it had the reputation of being a bawdy frat show: