ICE’s comeback to feature ‘Grinch’ sculptures

A creeping, coldhearted character will be at the center of the return of ICE, the signature holiday event at Gaylord Palms Resort. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” will be presented in ice sculptures as the tradition returns in November after a two-year absence that was prompted by the pandemic and travel restrictions.

The 2022 version of ICE will include about a dozen scenes from Dr. Seuss’ Grinch story, said Niko Nickolaou, senior director of special events and creative for Gaylord Hotels.

“As you enter the experience, you see Whoville; you start seeing the story unfold. Then you get into this incredible slide room, where you have these two-story slides that are racing down, and they’re all made out of ice,” Nickolaou said.

“The backdrop of this room is you have Max [Grinch’s pet] climbing the mountain with all the presents inside the sleigh.”

The exhibit again will be created by 40 visiting artisans from China. They will craft the scenes from more than 6,700 ice blocks weighing in at 1,000 tons. The carvers use tools ranging from chisels to chain saws plus effects with food coloring and LED to manufacture sculptures and settings. The exhibit space is kept at 9 degrees Fahrenheit for the duration of the event.

ICE will be available at the Kissimmee resort Nov. 18-Jan. 1. Admission prices vary by date, ranging from $29.99 to $39.99 ($19.99-$26.99 for ages 4-11).

Gaylord Hotels also have ICE exhibits at their resorts in Nashville; Aurora, Colorado; near Dallas and near Washington, D.C. Each location gets its own theme and own team of carvers, Nickolaou said.

“There are five artisan teams that all come from Harbin, China, and each one of them is comprised of different skill levels, so you have some extremely talented detail carvers, then you have some of the more engineering, architectural carvers,” he said. “So depending on the show and then the designs that we have out there, we’ll do that make up.”

It takes between 34 and 40 days to complete each location’s show, Nickolaou said.

Gaylord tweaked its holiday programming when making ICE was not possible the past two seasons.

“The pandemic did make us have to do some pivots due to travel restrictions. I Love Christmas Movies and Mission Save Christmas — both Gaylord signature events — were created with the pandemic in mind,” Nickolaou said.

“ICE is such a tradition to so many people,” he said. “… It has this family interaction to it. And it brings up, with the stories we’re telling, a great nostalgic thing for all our guests.”

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In 2019, the last time the Kissimmee resort held a full-blown ICE event, the theme was built around “The Polar Express” film.

The Grinch story has multigenerational appeal, Nickolaou said. The book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was first published in 1957 and an animated TV program of the story — narrated by Boris Karloff — debuted in 1966 and became a holiday staple. It has been remade a few times featuring actors such as Jim Carrey, Benedict Cumberbatch and Matthew Morrison.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park again will produce a stage musical called “Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular” based on the story during its holiday programming this year.

In the Seuss story, the green Grinch is extraordinarily grouchy when it comes to the holiday spirit rising from the residents of Whoville. He plots to ruin Christmas by stealing all the presents, festive décor and food whilst disguised as Santa Claus.

In addition to the ice-carving display, Gaylord Palms holiday lineup includes “Cirque: Spirit of Christmas,” a 30-minute acrobatic show; international storytellers talking about the birth of Jesus; an atrium light show; a “Naughty or Nice” escape room; snowball competitions; Elf Training Academy; gingerbread-decorating activities and Snow Bar, which serves holiday cocktails and mocktails.

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