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Wednesday, December 18, 2013 10:00 AM
Randy Rickerson’s snow sculptures usually get the attention of passing motorists on Franks Drive. But more important to Rickerson, he gets the applause of his children. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
Randy Rickerson touches up the smiles and eyes of his snow couple. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchieemail@example.com)
Randy Rickerson's eyes light up when he talks about snow.
The native Floridian didn't see snow on the ground until he was a teenager on a ski trip. Now he's known around his neighborhood for what he can create from a good, powdery snowfall.
Rickerson moved to Madison nine years ago for work. Since the move, he's figured out how to build giant snow sculptures. In previous winters, he's built snowmen and animals as tall as 10 feet.
"A lot of people don't look forward to winter," he said. "I do."
Keeping with his tradition, after last week's snowfall, Rickerson - a father of two - constructed two huge snowmen in his front yard.
"I want those memories for my kids," he said.
Several years ago, Rickerson wanted to make a snowman with his daughter Jaylan. Together they wanted to make the biggest snowman they could. But when Rickerson began rolling his snowball across the yard, it didn't look right. It had picked up dead leaves, dirt and blades of grass.
Rickerson started running through other possibilities of how to build a snowman and eventually found his answer.
Now, whenever he wants to build a snowman, Rickerson will go out and get the biggest cardboard box he can find. Old refrigerator boxes or the large boxes that grocery stores put pumpkins in work well, he said.
Once he has the right box, Rickerson wraps it with boxing tape. He'll go around six or seven times before moving down a few inches and wrapping another strip around the box until he reaches the bottom.
"If you don't do that, they start to bulge out," he said.
"It makes them like, 10-times stronger."
Then he packs snow into the box. He fills it and packs it down and then fills it again until the box can't hold any more.
"It has to be packed tight," he said.
Once the snow is packed into the box, he slides the cardboard over the top leaving a solid white brick of snow. He repeats the process until he has a pillar of packed snow standing in his yard.
Then he gets to carve out his creation.
Using a square shovel and a few other basic tools, Rickerson carves whatever he thinks he can make. Sometimes it's a snowman - or a snowwoman per his daughter's request - but he has also built a great white shark, an orca whale, an igloo and several penguins.
Sometimes the image he has in his head doesn't translate into the snow carving though.
"I'll try it," is Rickerson's usual response when his children ask him to build something he's never built before.
"But sometimes it doesn't work out."
Despite what he has made in the snow, Rickerson says he's not an artist.
Growing up in Florida, he said he's made sand castles and sand turtles at the beach, but that's about it.
Mostly, he says he makes his snow carving for his children. He wants them to have vivid memories of the holidays like he has from his childhood.
"It makes their day," he said. "It makes the holidays come to life."
VIDEO: Your Story - Sculpting Memories
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