Winterfest is held in our small town every February. This year, I decided to enter the snowman contest. During the first week of January, temperatures were in the single digits with below 0° wind chills and two feet of snow was falling. I had plenty of indoor time on my hands!
I picked up a wooden cut-out at the Rae-Ann Nursing Home. There were a limited number available beginning January 2 but the cold and snow must have kept people at home because I seemed to be the first person to get one on Januuary 3. You are allowed to make your own cut out too, but it was easier to use theirs. The contest was open to both businesses and individuals. I only had to fill out a form with my name and address and the cut-out was mine. Now, what to do with it? I felt the snowman should make a statement about our city and my life here in Geneva.
Time was an issue. Rules required that the snowman entry be turned in by January 10. On the 11th, all snowmen entries would be mounted throughout the downtown to be displayed in the weeks leading up to Winterfest. I had only one week to complete the piece. While I thought about my design, I gave my snowman three coats of glossy white latex paint which I had bought off the clearance rack the day before. The first coat of paint covered well and three coats may have been over-doing it but I needed the snowman to be outdoor, harsh weather durable.
After giving the base coats a good 24 hours to dry, it was time to do the decorative painting. I started with the hat. I knew I wanted it to be fun — a floppy patchwork hat. “Sewn” into the front of the hat is a red heart – a symbol that my heart belongs to my hometown.
I decorated the hat band with grapes, an important symbol to Geneva and all of Ashtabula County where grape growing and wineries are an important industry. I grew up living on the edge of a vineyard. You can’t live in Geneva and not know about grapes. We even hold a street festival each September called the “Grape Jamboree.”
Every snowman or lady needs a scarf. But what color should it be? I toyed with the idea of red and gray, our Geneva school colors. In the end I chose “grape” purple.
Geneva and our resort community of Geneva-on-the-Lake sit on the Lake Erie shore. Lake Erie is another big part of our town’s identity even in the winter months when the waters turn to ice. To incorporate the lake into my entry I placed Lake Erie’s waves at my snowman’s “feet” and I used silver glitter paint to give them an icy look.
I painted for three days. I gave my snowman green eyes to reflect the idea that Geneva is such a lovely green place to live; rosy cheeks because in February it is often bitter cold; a snowflake on the mitten – a symbol of the Winterfest festival.
In my own yard, birds take center stage this time of year. I fill feeders in the garden and we enjoy watching them through our windows. Cardinals, jays, juncos, nuthatches, doves, sparrows, woodpeckers, finches, and chickadees line up to take their turn at devouring black sunflower seed and suet blocks at an alarming rate. I chose to add my whimsical birds tucked safely in a mittened hand. I painted another hanging upside down, replicating the antics of those crazy birds in my garden that are always trying to land on a feeder perch meant for much smaller birds. Don’t worry. He won’t fall headfirst into the lake. Birds can fly!
After drying overnight the piece got three coats of a protective Polyacrylic, a water based product that I like because it dries quickly and it remains crystal clear. It won’t yellow like an oil based polyurethane— an important thing to consider when you are trying to protect a painted piece where maintaining true color is important.
And here is the final result. What do you think of my happy snowman?