Category Archives: Snow


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:



Some folks from church prevailed on me to use the snow in Glen Avon’s front yard to have some fun. On Saturday with the help of my grandsons we made Heart Henge. I described its making as the work of ancient Picts and Scots building a temple to the heart. Think Stonehenge (The original Presbyterians were descended from the Picts who gave the Romans bloody hell while the Romans gave them bagpipes. I’d say that was a fair trade.)

On Sunday we added a bit of color.

In case you were wondering – tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.

Princess Leia’s 15 minutes of fame

In addition to Reddit Jabba snowed up on CBS stations coast to coast. Friends from church called me this morning to say that KDLH’s little story popped up on their motel TV in California. The story that Destination Duluth covered was on a New York Station.

The New York station even did a follow up on their website saying that I had made good on my promise to build Princess Leia with the fresh snow we got last week. If you look close Leia is pure as the driven while old Jabba is appropriately dingy after a couple of weeks letting dust particles migrate to his surface.

I figure that if she was standing the princess would be nine feet tall. But she’s also petite. I came home from a funeral yesterday and saw her head listing dangerously to the North on her tiny neck. I put some fresh snow in a bucket and brought it inside to melt for patching. Then I took a small hand saw and decapitated the Princess. She may be dainty but he’s also pretty hardly. I put her head back on in a more fetching southerly tilt and gave her a hidden neck brace for good measure.


I’ve been annoyed at the recent insult that my blog is not effective, “efficatious,” because I only have “eight loyal readers.” Well, a screen shot of the Imgur page that was recently sent to my wife by a friend suggests I can occasionally break the bonds of obscurity. Notice the views on this unassuming little picture.

Jabba the Hit

My Son texted me a while ago which is a rare occurrence. He told me that Jabba the Hutt had 35,000 “up votes” on Reddit. Its almost 40,000 now with 821 comments. I guess that’s good.

I was afraid the old coot would melt while I was in Denver but a cold wave saved his bacon the day after I left. Now its snowing and I’m thinking he needs a companion. Hmmmmmmm.

Jabba is an old friend. He came by our place two years ago in a different medium for our Church’s trunk or treat. Here’s a pic.:

I read a lot of the comments on Reddit. Apparently there are a lot of delivery drivers checking on its trending stories. A lot of them chimed in to say we were good tippers when we order a pizza.

Oh, and KBJR TV just sent a photographer to get a little history on the big guy tonight.

Snow Sculpting was about my sixth priority this week

I moved it to number 4 because I’m leaving town tomorrow. I wanted to finish one while the balmy sculpting weather continues. It will be interesting to see how Jabba holds up through one more day forecast in the mid-thirties.

I had a lot to spout off about but the posts had to wait their turn behind more important obligations.

My top priority was angling to get an OK to visit my Uncle in Colorado. I got it by buttering him up with a letter and an old column I wrote about him a dozen years ago. It’s been a while since I last linked to this old column about my Uncle. My cousin said he enjoyed it when she read it to him. His arms went useless a month ago so he couldn’t hold it himself.

And here’s a link to another column of mine about a “spineless bastard” which is mentioned in the first column. This will have to tide my eight loyal readers over until tomorrow.

Perfect Duluth Day – December 30, 2016

I was asked by Brian Barber of Perfect Duluth Day to pass on some information about my snow “art.” Anyone who has ever visited one of the websites for the Harbin Winter Ice Festival or the many snow sculpting contests sites will immediately recognize that what I do and what professional snow and ice sculptors do are world’s apart. Still, I’ve had my moments.

Because Brian asked me for pictures of 800 to 1000 pixels I decided to overhaul nearly thirty years worth of chaotic scraps from my sculpting career which goes back to 1987. I started putting postage stamp sized photos of my early sculptures on my webpage when it took hours to upload or download ordinary pictures.

The “thumbnails” were too small for Mr. Barber’s needs.

I spread all my old scrapheaps out and rediscovered the many joys of my modest success and their quirky results. I now have a chronological record which, after tomorrow, will encompass a thirty-year career which is just shy of 100 sculptures.