Ice blocks arriving for world record ice maze
We don't need no stinking Super Bowl trophy.
Or for that matter, a Stanley Cup.
On the steps of HSBC Center, dozens of volunteers are unloading and stacking 300-pound blocks of ice with the hope that, come Friday, they can boast of total and absolute supremacy in the world of outdoor ice mazes.
To build a nearly half-mile-long maze of ice with an open center shaped to look like a buffalo and filled with sparkling ice sculptures.
It will be, weather permitting, a puzzle big and beautiful enough to break the current record held by our cold-weather nemesis to the north.
Think of it. What better sequel to Team USA's win over Canada in Olympic hockey than stealing away Toronto's world record?
"The Guinness rep will fly in Thursday, and we'll have the coronation Friday," said an optimistic Jeff Empric of Roaming Buffaloes, one of the groups organizing the record-shattering event.
Coronation? In Buffalo?
It's all part of the first Buffalo Powder Keg Winter Festival, and the world's largest ice maze is just one of the attractions.
The two-day festival, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, is an attempt to exploit Buffalo's harsh winters, not apologize for them.
"This seemed like something that could boost Buffalo," said Ted Nitterauer of Clarence, one of the 20 or so volunteers who showed up Monday to move blocks of ice.
While the maze takes center stage, there is more to the event, including a transportation first: tubing down the Seneca Street off-ramp from the Skyway. The ramp will be closed Friday as workers prepare it for the tubing.
And if that's not enough, there will be a snowman-building contest on the plaza of HSBC Center, broom ball tournaments in a parking lot near Pearl Street Grill and Brewery and open snow tennis along Main Street.
The festival also coincides with the annual Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament on man-made rinks at nearby Erie Basin Marina.
The ice blocks, all 2,200 of them, will continue arriving over the next few days, carried by 16 tractor-trailers making their way, first from an ice-making plant in the Bronx and, more recently, a warehouse outside Rochester.
"I think we started making them the day after New Year's," said Raymond Tortorice of Arctic Glacier, the company hired to produce and deliver the ice blocks.
The first of those blocks was put in place Saturday, and by Monday afternoon, the first walls of the maze were starting to take shape.
By Thursday night, Empric is predicting an ice creation so big, it will surpass the current record holder, the 2005 Pontiac Ice Maze and its 1,940 blocks of ice in Toronto.
If there's one wild card, it's the weather.
A few days of above-freezing weather is not a big deal, said Tortorice, as long as it dips below freezing each night.
For Empric, the biggest headache Monday was not the temperature but the rain.
"It's going to be a time constraint," he said, as the wet stuff alternated between rain and sleet. "It's going to pinch our windows [of opportunity]."
He noted that volunteers are always needed and welcome. They can simply show up at the HSBC Center plaza to help out.
The two-day festival will include a beer tent, music stage and pancake breakfast for those who prefer the indoors. It starts at 8 a.m. Saturday and ends at 6 p.m. Sunday.