The Lake Superior Ice Project came tumbling down again this week, this time on purpose, and this time for good.
A Minnesota sculptor worked for months to erect the world's tallest ice sculpture on Lake Superior's Wisconsin shore, doggedly starting again from scratch when the whole thing collapsed in a heap of ice cubes in February.
The sculpture's rise and fall and rise and fall captivated onlookers in two states.
"Iceman" Roger Hanson, an engineer and self-taught sculptor from Big Lake, spent months painstakingly spraying lake water into fanciful shapes to create an abstract tower that would anchor winter festivities in Superior, Wis. By Feb. 3, the ice was more than 60 feet tall and heading toward his goal of 70 feet when it abruptly collapsed, following a winter thaw.
Undaunted, Hanson vowed to rebuild, and Superior went ahead with three weekends' worth of festivals, cheerfully shooting off fireworks around the rising sculpture and bouncing laser light shows off its slick surface.
Hanson rebuilt a little too well, as it turned out. Ice Project 2.0 topped out as a 5 million-pound hulk of abstract ice, 50 feet high and 49 feet wide — but 3 feet short of the world record.
The structure was so sturdy, Hanson had a hard time delivering on his promise to have it safely dismantled by this weekend. The fire department blasted it with hoses. Trucks tugged on it with chains. The temperature soared toward 60 degrees. But the ice held firm.
The sculpture finally collapsed Thursday and video captured a delighted Hanson dancing in celebration. "Now I can go home and annoy my wife for the next 8 months," he wrote on Facebook. "But 'I'll Be Back.' "
Superior residents presented Hanson with a certificate of appreciation: "You are OUR Iceman," it said. "And we are YOUR people."
"It means a lot to me, it kinda melted the Iceman," Hanson wrote on Facebook, noting that he plans to return next year to try another time.