For the second year running, a small crowd of both longtime enthusiasts and excited beginners went to town carving up 300-pound blocks of ice outside the Bozeman Public Library on Saturday.

The whirr of power tools and the scraping of saws and chisels cut through the air as competitors worked to shape the massive ice blocks into intricate shapes that included a peacock, an owl and a dog.

Walkers stopped to watch the group, who were taking part in the now-annual Sweet Pea Ice Carving Competition.

“Sweet Pea is all about promoting and cultivating the arts, and this is a good winter art,” said organizer Melanie Mangione, who serves on the Sweet Pea board. “It’s pretty cool.”

Carvers ranged from experienced to first-timers. Brian McKinney has been shaping ice for 25 years, including competing at the World Ice Art Championships in Alaska. McKinney started carving after taking an elective class at culinary school and now runs a business — All Cool Ice Custom Ice Sculptures and Carvings — from his home in Great Falls.

Saturday, he was sculpting a peacock. McKinney started by shaving the ice flat with a sander before placing a stencil over top and tracing its design onto the block using a modified rotary power tool. From there, he chipped and ground away slowly until the block began to take shape.

“It’s important to support these kinds of events because there aren’t that many of them,” McKinney said.

Across the way, a father and daughter team was taking their first shot at the art form.

“We’re more analog, not quite as digital as some of the other guys,” said father Pete MacFadyen. The two were using hand chisels to carve a dog, which Lily MacFadyen had named Tupac.

“We’re confident about our odds,” Pete MacFadyen joked. The day’s winners were awarded a cash prize.

Mangione, an experienced ice carver herself, was excited about the turnout — three times as many participants as last year. But it’s no surprise, she said, considering the beauty and appeal of ice carving.

Once completed, the sculptures will be displayed with lights outside the library for at least a week.

“At the end of the day, you have this beautiful finished work of art,” Mangione said. “But it’s temporary; it’s a moment in time. That’s why I love it.”

Kendall can be reached at 406-582-2651 or He is on Twitter at @lewdak

Lewis Kendall covers business and the economy for the Chronicle.

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