Bartz brothers bring New Brighton a fish out of water


From left, Connor, Austin, and Trevor Bartz pose with their completed snow fish sculpture outside their New Brighton home.

The Bartz brothers spent extra time shaping the intricate details on their 22-foot tall fish.

A fish built of snow stands tall in New Brighton. This is the sixth giant snow sculpture the Bartz brothers have built and it continues with their sea life theme.

Once a year a giant sea creature emerges from the snow in New Brighton. 

That is to say, each winter for the past five years, three brothers have brought smiles to the faces of passersby and “pilgrims” alike by creating masive snow sculptures in their parents’ front yard.

Towering at 22 feet, a fish — reminiscent of a bluegill — stands in the 2700 block of 16th Street N.W.

The Bartz brothers — 18-year-old Connor, 21-year-old Trevor and 22-year-old Austin — now in young adulthood, began the tradition back in 2012 when they built a pufferfish. The next year they sculpted a walrus, then a shark, a turtle and an octopus. 

The brothers’ sixth installment in their impressive lineup has layered scales, textured fins, inner-gill-detailing, a gaping mouth and expressive eyes that look to be in search of water. 

Austin, the oldest sibling, says though building a fish may sound simple compared to their past endeavors, the project presented new challenges and required lessons learned from past years. 

He says the trio approaches the project as a fine line between art and engineering.

“I’m a bad artist,” Austin says, noting that they don’t sketch out plans because, “none of [us] can even draw.”

“It’s more a trial-and-error thing,” he explains. “We eyeball it, and we see what needs to change. We add something here; subtract something there. It takes a while sometimes, but we get there.” 

Between gathering snow — scarce at points this winter — and storing, piling, molding and detailing that snow into a giant fish, it took the brothers about 350 hours to complete. 

“We pretty much work whenever we have time,” Austin says. “And a lot of people stop by and watch us work for a while — sometimes they stay for up to an hour watching.” 

Each year the brothers collect the snow from their neighbors’ yards and some church parking lots. According to Austin, most folks in the neighborhood appreciate their yearly activity, though the extra traffic it attracts, especially on the weekends, is a little less appreciated, he says.

What do they intend to make next year? 

In keeping with tradition, they’re not saying. 

“We have a pretty good idea of what we’re gonna do,” he says. “But it’s a surprise.”

Their fish sculpture can be found at 2777 16th St. N.W. in New Brighton. It’s illuminated until 11 p.m. 

The brothers are also accepting donations for clean water initiatives in Malawi through an organization called One Day’s Wages. 

Those interested can find more information on the Bartz brothers and their snow sculptures on their Facebook page.

“Life’s gonna get a lot busier as we get older, so we’ll see what it brings,” Austin says, “but we’re gonna try our best to keep doing this as long as we can.”

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815.

 

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