Moomins!  Just as the 2007 Harbin Snow Sculpture Art Fair celebrated Canada, the 2009 event celebrated Finland - and few things are more Finnish than the Moomins.  This is a snow sculpture of Moominpappa and Moominmamma, two of the three main Moomin characters.

The third is Moomintroll, here hiding behind his parents.  First popularized in a series of books that debuted in 1945, they’ve gone on to star in comic strips, television shows and movies.  Finland even has a Moomin World theme park.

The layout of the Snow Sculpture Art Fair remains consistent from year to year as it takes place within an established park, Sun Island Park.  (By contrast, the layout of the Ice and Snow World changes completely every year as it takes place on an open field that is otherwise unused.)  Where a large snow sculpture of Canada’s Norman Bethune was located two years ago, a large replica of the Lutheran Cathedral in Helsinki was constructed this year...

...and a full-sized snow village appeared in the same place as before, this time reflecting Finnish architecture and design.  Knowing the layout in advance let me quickly find the best part of this event: the competition snow sculptures.

While you’re on your way over to the competition sculptures, how about some candied haws?  Oh, you crushed a tooth on one of these at the Ice and Snow World last night?

Detail of the competition sculpture “Courage”, created by a Chinese team.  This was my personal favorite in the competition this year.

Detail of the competition sculpture “Kiss”, framed by a very delicate snow hoop.

The Moomins aren’t the only ones with a theme park in Finland; Santa Claus has one too.  This is a recreation of the entrance to Santa Park, near Rovaniemi, up on the Arctic Circle - another rather chilly place in winter.  This view here is actually better than at the original: much of the real theme park is below ground, and it doesn’t have a mountain behind it with Santa and his bushy beard carved into it.  However, Santa’s reindeer do appear there, as they did here.

The competition sculpture “Personification”, by a Japanese team.  A dragon always seems to find its way into this competition.

Detail of the sculpture “Speed Fire”, one of a number of competition entries by Russian teams.

An unusual parade marches by the Santa Park snow sculptures.

Looks like one guy didn’t want to get with the program.

The parade’s Santa float.  Despite the elves trailing behind, Santa made no appearance this day.  Perhaps the sun emblem appearing on the float meant that he was off vacationing in Florida.  Christmas was weeks earlier, after all.

The competition sculpture “Off the Dark Horse”.  As in past years, the sculptures began as blocks of man-made snow measuring a few meters on each side.

Detail of the competition sculpture “Grasp Success” by a Russian team.  High scores for technical merit; I’m constantly amazed that snow sculptures like this don’t simply collapse.

Enjoying the Snow Sculpture Art Fair mostly involves long walks through Sun Island Park to view the sculptures, but other activities can be had here as well, such as running an obstacle course (she didn’t make it)...

... and sledding down from Santa’s beard in inner tubes (they did make it, screaming all the way).

Detail of the competition sculpture “Happy Birthday”, another Russian entry, showing a boy who has tunnelled all the way through his huge birthday cake.  I learned later that this was the top prize winner at this year’s snow sculpture competition, so I’m fortunate to have taken a number of photographs of it.  It’s beautifully rendered, but at least as impressive...

...is the amazingly detailed work on the back of the sculpture, a snow screen separate from but surrounding the cake.

Santa gets a facial...

...while others work nearby on a stucture celebrating the previous year’s Olympic games, incorporating the latticework of Beijing’s now-famous Bird’s Nest.  When I first saw it, the full structure looked like it needed a huge amount of work to reach completion...

...but when I returned two days later, it was done...

...and the last of the leftover snow was being scooped up and carried off.

Detail of the competition’s scariest sculpture, “Omega’s Space Time Tunnel”.

Detail of the snow screen for the prize-winning competition snow sculpture “Happy Birthday”.

The next generation of snow sculptors, hard at work.  In Harbin, school is out for nearly two months during this time of winter because of the extreme cold and the short days; summer vacation is only around a month long.

The current generation of snow sculptors, hard at work.  Though the Snow Sculpture Art Fair had been underway for weeks and was officially scheduled to end soon, artisans were hard at work creating a whole new set of snow sculptures in a different section of the park - probably because the bitterly cold weather was now sure to last for weeks more, allowing the event to continue.

The Santa Claus Train.  The stairs on the left allowed visitors to walk up inside and have their photograph taken as they looked out a train window.

Candied haws, anyone?  Last chance...

“Mermaid”, one of the sculptures celebrating Finland, proved to be a particularly popular photography subject...for the guys.

Dairy maiden and cow, a very nicely done portion of the long Finnish snow village mural, nearly four meters in height.

Straight across from the dairy maiden, workers chain-saw blocks of ice for use in the construction of a new ice building in the snow village.

Another section of the snow village mural.

Santa’s newest reindeer?  No, a regular deer belonging to one of the vendors working at the Harbin Snow Sculpture Art Fair.

My Harbin winter festival photographs through 2007 have been published as a book entitled “Hot Ice and Wondrous Strange Snow: The Winter Festivals of Harbin, China”.  The book, available through Blurb.com, can be previewed and purchased below.