How It All Started
The Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition started with a chance encounter. In 1985 two local businessmen, Dennis Johnson and Brian Hampton, were snowmobiling in northern Wisconsin. They happened upon a winter carnival and a snow sculpture created by Jim and Bev Neihaus of Eagle River, Wisconsin. They made arrangements to bring the young couple to Rockford, and in January 1986 they sculpted three pieces near what was at the time the Sinnissippi Park Greenhouse—now the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens. The sculptures were an American eagle, the Statue of Liberty, and the Liberty Bell. Many Rockford Park District staff helped in the execution of these large creations.
The following summer, Dennis Johnson was informed about a group in Milwaukee that sanctioned state and national competitions. He and Rockford Alderman Frank Beach visited Milwaukee the following day, and Rockford became the host city for the first Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition in 1987.