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:


Author/Byline: Scott Thistle News Tribune Staff Writer

Taking his inspiration from Mr. Freeze, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in “Batman and Robin,” Duluth’s Steve Birkedahl is stacking snow blocks high in his backyard.

“He says in the movie a freeze is coming,” Birkedahl, 37, said Thursday as the pyramid-like structure he’s building loomed to a height of 20 feet, 9 inches.

“I always wanted a view of the lake,” Birkedahl, an out-of-work mason, said as he placed a rectangular block of snow on the topmost level of the snow tower. “I can actually see it now.”

Since the first significant snowfall three months ago, Birkedahl has been building in hopes of redeeming himself, even just a little, in the eyes of his 10-year-old daughter, Theresa.

Birkedahl grabbed national attention two years ago when a 16-foot snow tower he built landed him on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” a late-night show on ABC. But Birkedahl got too drunk that night, he said, and forgot to mention Theresa’s name on the air. He has since quit drinking.

With a roll of her eyes, the 10-year-old sums up her dad’s TV debut with one word: “Dumb,” she said.

But now Theresa is helping her dad reach his goal of building the biggest snow sculpture in Duluth.

The prospect is not all that impressive to her. The structure might be big for Duluth, but “not for Eygpt,” Theresa said.

She feigned boredom when asked about helping with the project. “Mostly I like to get off from school,” she said.

Birkedahl vowed he would build Duluth’s biggest sculpture two years ago, but the weather got the best of him. The unofficial record for the city still belongs to Harry Welty’s 16-foot-tall gorilla, built after the Halloweenmegastorm of 1991.

“I kind of made a promise to myself two years ago,” Birkedahl said. “I want to keep it.”

A 23-foot-tall Hermantown snowman, built earlier this year by Keith Johnson and his family, motivated Birkedahl to go bigger. He had already started the snow tower in his backyard at 2109 W. Fourth St.

“We had it at the 16-foot mark and the next day we heard about this snowman,” he said.

A remodel was in order. Birkedahl broadened the base and went back at it the next day.

Now the tower rises past the phone and power lines, and into the treetops.

“I’d bet $1,000 it will still be here July 1st,” Birkedahl said.

At 5 p.m. today, Birkedahl plans to plant an American flag on the summit — he ruled out a gas-burning torch after his girlfriend voiced reservations. When it’s done, the snow tower will reach 24 feet, he said. The height, including the flag, will be 27 to 28 feet, Birkedahl predicted.

His neighbors have been pretty good sports about the construction, although one did complain about him raiding snow from their yard in the early-morning hours.

“They’re mostly OK with it; well, at least until I turned that up too loud,” he said, pointing to a loudspeaker on his back deck playing 1980s rock anthems. The police didn’t say much about the snow sculpture but did ask him to turn down the music, he said.

He uses warm water to soften and shape the snow, which then freezes into solid blocks.

Last month’s water bill was $867, he said. That almost put an end to construction, Birkedahl said.

His family, friends and neighbors “think I’m kind of nuts for doing it,” Birkedahl said. “But it gives me a chance to spend some time with my daughter, you know, more than just three hours building a snowman.”

The project has also been a way to keep fit and pass a long winter in Duluth, Birkedahl said.

“It’s mostly for her,” he said nodding toward the 10-year-old as he packed another bucket full of snow and headed up the ladder. “As for anybody else, I guess if they don’t like it, I pretty much tell them, `Mind your own business.’ ”
Caption: PHOTO: CLINT AUSTIN / NEWS TRIBUNESteve Birkedahl of Duluth climbs a ladder Thursday to add a block of snow to a tower he’s building in the backyard of his Lincoln Park home. Birkedahl landed an appearance on ABC’s late-night TV show “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in 2004 when a snow tower he was building approached 16 feet tall. His new tower exceeds 20 feet. Birkedahl (left) and his daughter, Theresa, make a block of snow. Steve Birkedahl adds a block of snow to the tower in the backyard of his Lincoln Park home Thursday. The tower is more than 20 feet tall, and Birkedahl is hoping to have it measure 24 feet when he finishes the project today.

Blocks of snow: 1,900

Pounds of snow (estimated): 80,000

Last month’s water bill: $867

Finished height: 24 feet

NOTE: If I ever held the record for the height of a local snow sculpture it was obliterated a few years later in January 2009 by the Johnson family of Hermantown: Quoting the DNT “Frosty the Snowman is one big, big star in Hermantown.

In fact, he’s huge: about 23 feet tall and 50 feet in circumference.

The gargantuan snow sculpture is the handiwork of the entire Johnson family: dad, Keith; mom, Cynde; daughter, Kristi, 16; and son, Eric, 13. And it occupies a good chunk of their yard on the corner of Stebner Road and Woodridge Drive, south of U.S. Highway 53.”


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