Snow sculptor salutes firefighters
Creates cool tribute to crews ‘who keep us safe’
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Snow sculptor extraordinaire Ed Sanchez doesn’t have to look far for inspiration.
The newcomer from the Philippines landed in Winnipeg in 2012, and immediately began experimenting with his craft. Quickly, snowmen became intricate sculptures.
Every winter, he tries to come up with a theme close to his heart. In February, he went with a common muse — a hockey player — but one of his creations is a new foray for him: a giant tribute to Winnipeg firefighters.
The three-metre-tall head, which is so large it sits in both Sanchez and his neighbour’s yards, wears a snow helmet identifying Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service’s Station 6 (inspiring the station’s real-life crew to visit Sanchez and the sculpture Monday).
“I made a huge firefighter because I also wanted to dedicate this to firefighters… who keep us safe,” said Sanchez, 67.
It came during a tough few days for the North End station crews, which logged seven structure fires in just that week, United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg president Tom Bilous said.
“I think it’s a real nice tip of the hat from the sculptor… and everybody in the North End, frankly, just to acknowledge their support of our firefighters,” he said.
“I know that crew had had a week — it has been the winter from hell for fires, as far as the Winnipeg fire department is concerned, and a big chunk of those fires have been in the North End.”
As for Sanchez’s goal of honouring firefighters in his community, Bilous said: “Mission accomplished.”
Amazing his neighbours and passersby with his art is in Sanchez’s blood. His brother, Tito Sanchez, is an influential sculptor in the Philippines, known for thoughtful and harrowing pieces on the joys and sorrows of everyday life.
“I learned from him, so when I came here in Winnipeg, I tried (sculptures) made of snow, see (if) it works,” Sanchez said.
When Sanchez isn’t snow sculpting, he works at a hose-fitting manufacturing company. Now that he’s 67, he’s made sure to pace himself. He said February is often the sweet spot for sculpting because it has perfect snow.
Already, his hockey player and firefighter appear to have been subject to the elements, and Sanchez guesses they have, at most, just weeks left.
The temporary nature of it doesn’t bother him, though.
“I guess I want to make something that people can see, I want to (make) people happy, especially children,” he said. “They come here, and they want to take a picture, a lot of people are smiling when they come over. They talk to me, they stop their car and then have a picture.
“Sometimes, even (when) it’s already not winter, they just pass here and they give something to me… ‘Oh, this is for you, because you make the city nice.’”
Sanchez is part of a community of winter artists in Winnipeg.
He’s taking part in this year’s Last Snowman contest, which seeks to raise awareness about climate change via snow art. Prizes will be awarded March 12.
Competition or not, Sanchez said he’ll make snow sculptures as long as he’s able: “This is my passion.”
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.