Jamboree Update: Blockhead On the Ice!

Words by Keith MacNeill

On Saturday afternoon, we were down on the ice at the Long John Jamboree site, next to the Snow Castle. The boys from Det’on Cho Logistics were helping us move 7,500-pound blocks of ice into place. They’re for De Beers Inspired Ice, the international ice carving competition happening for its fourth year at the Jamboree this coming weekend.

Around Jamboree time, my truck is my office, and my binder is my bible. My binder contains 23 different tabs of information about the competition: carving team bios, site plans, budget, registrations and sketches, feedback from last year. In the section marked ‘Site,’ I have notes about how the site will be laid out, how many blocks we need for which purpose, and who wants their ice block standing up and who wants it laying on its side.

Most importantly this Saturday, I have a page that contains the different dimensions of each block of ice that we’ve harvested. Since the blocks are cut by hand, they’re each a little different. Once we had them all cut and stashed, I measured each one by height, width and depth, variations in thickness, where the shapes were uneven — and recorded it all in my binder. My job as coordinator of De Beers Inspired Ice is to provide the carving teams with ice blocks that are as consistent as possible, in size and shape.

Ice carvers like big blocks of natural ice. Our blocks are eight feet high, four feet wide and about three feet deep. They’re a challenge to manoeuvre at the best of times. The ice has fractures that develop as it flexes and bends from currents, traffic, and fluctuations in temperature. Then there are dents and dings that happen when a block weighing three or four tons is hauled out of the lake, strapped to a pallet, and moved around by forklift. It’s all a bit of a crapshoot.

So between each block being placed, I go back to my binder, on the tailgate of my truck. I check the dimensions of the remaining blocks, and decide which one should be brought out next.

This Saturday afternoon, we had placed the first five blocks. I reviewed my binder, determined which block should be next. Went with the crew and loader to take the tarp off it. It was hauled out on the forks and moved into position. But while trying to tip it into place, it jammed on the pallet. The more we raised it, the more it jammed. We needed to cut the pallet. No one had a saw. What would we do? Temporarily, we were stymied.


Then, just over in the Snow Castle’s parking lot, I spied my friend Dave’s truck. Solution! Dave’s truck is the likeliest place ever to find the tool you need at that moment. (Dave has another truck, but that’s another story.) I drove over to Dave’s truck. I rifled through it, and found a hatchet. No saw, but a hatchet would do.

Back in my truck, I turned back towards the Jamboree site. I immediately noticed three or four people along the road. One pedestrian, and a couple of vehicles had stopped. Papers, strewn along the road. People kneeling, crouching to pick them up. Collecting these loose papers. Some littering moron had carelessly left a bunch of papers, strewn all over the road, and starting to blow away.

I thought for a second, I really should stop and help. But the ice block was there, suspended from the forks; the guys were waiting, and the day was wearing on. Quick decision. I left the road without a second thought. Back to the loader. Delivered the hatchet. Watched as the pallet was dismantled. And the block started to slide into place.

Block 6 nearly done, I went back to my truck to check my binder for the next one. There was my open tailgate. But no binder. Where’s my binder? With all my notes and forms and papers, everything I need to make this happen? Did I put it in the front seat? Check. Not there. Where is my binder?

Sudden horror. I realize where my binder had gone. Oh, no. The papers all over the road. The people stopping, kneeling to collect them. They were my papers! I was the moron!!

Slammed the tailgate shut. Oh no. Back to the road, just in front of the barge. Searching the roadway. No papers. No people collecting. Oh no.

I drove slowly along the road in front of the Castle. Eyes peeled, looking for the people, the vehicles, that I’d seen crouching, collecting papers. Nothing looked familiar. Drove all the way to the end of the Castle parking area, the end of the line of parked cars. Heart sinking. No signs of papers. No signs of people collecting them. Nothing familiar. Oh no. What would I do?

I got to the end of the row and turned around. Drove slowly back, still looking. Disaster looming in my mind. Searching. Registrations. Bios. Site plan. Sizes of ice blocks. All gone, all vanished. I imagined hours of work to re-create the binder. What will I forget?  What have I lost? Ugh. Disaster. What will I do? How will I even pick the next block? Oh no. The worst feeling of all time.

My phone rang. The screen read Sir Joe Snow. Hello? Hey Keith, it’s Ryan. A faint glimmer of hope. Emily just brought in a bunch of papers she found on the road. I think, but don’t ask, who’s Emily? I think they might be yours. Oh my God, Ryan, thank you! Where are you? Yeah, we’re at the Castle. That is my LIFE! Thank you!

Parked the truck. Hurried over to the Castle. There’s Ryan near the door. Jerked his thumb over his shoulder. Yeah, Emily’s got your papers. Hustled inside. There’s Emily with my friends Sheila and Dave (of the truck and the hatchet), and the Snowking.  Hanging about, a pleasant, idyllic afternoon at the Iceolation art show.

And there, in Sheila’s arm, courtesy of Emily and some unknown friends, is my precious binder. Bunches of loose papers crammed in between the covers. But looking mostly like it had when I last saw it on the tailgate. Holding every detail of my life this week.

I don’t know Emily. I thank Emily. Thank you thank you thank you. I feel like the moron who carelessly littered his papers all over the lake. I AM the moron who carelessly littered his papers all over the lake. And I didn’t even stop to help pick them up, I confess in what I intend as effusive gratitude.

Palpable relief. Blood pressure returning to normal. Back to the job, my info intact. Panic averted.

Later, I reassemble my binder. Not a page is missing. Not even the receipt for my truck repair that I’d crammed in there because I was lazy. Everything was there. My binder remains complete.

Sunday. I have my notes. All the ice is in place. My info is intact. The week can begin according to plan. My life is saved.

Thank you, Emily. Thank you, good people I don’t even know. Thank you, Sir Joe Snow. Thank you, Dave and Sheila. Thank you.

I love this town.


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