SCOTTVILLE — A little imagination, a couple streaks of truly sub-freezing weather, water, dye and plywood cut-outs stuffed with cardboard to look like people are bringing smiles to drivers and passers-by on U.S.10-31 at Wolf’s Den.

Since about 2008, proprietor Phil Wolf has been creating an ice sculpture in front of his wood crafts business when winter weather allows.

Underneath the towering man-made stalagmite of ice, are 20 Christmas trees put to a new use as the superstructure the flowing water freezes onto. Daily, he said, he is asked whether the ice will kill the tree beneath it and he explains he’s using dead trees.

This winter, Wolf turned the water on for the first time Jan. 22 and let it flow for five days before warming weather made impractical to continue.

Arter a mild January, polar air descended. “We got the weather for it this year,” Wolf said.

He resumed adding water to build ice Feb. 6 and plans to turn it off for the final time this winter Thursday. He’s added dye to it twice so there are splashes of color.

He strategically placed “friends” — plywood cutouts with cardboard stuffed in arms and legs dressed for the cold weather — too. A mother appears to be taking photos of her children posed next to the sculpture.

“I added chainsaw carved dogs this year,” Wolf said.

The sculpture does a couple things, Wolf said.

“It really helps my business. Anything I do to attract business,” he said.

While a lot of people just pull into the parking lot, snap a picture and leave, others go inside the 4,000-square foot building where he sells and makes crafts using old-fashioned hand tools, sandpaper and small power tools. He also builds custom stairways for homes in the shop.

The other reason?

“It is fun,” Wolf said, noting the times are difficult with people seeking diversions.

“It’s all about putting a smile on a person’s face. (People) can drive by and smile.”

The cut-out people are a hit.

Visitors to the store tell him, “You got me. I thought they were real.”

Based on weather forcasts, Wolf expects the sculpture will last for at least a couple weeks after he stops adding water. It can withstand near-freezing and above-freezing temperatures during the day if it gets cold at night.

Sunshine is its main threat.

Once sunshine reaches the green branches under the ice, it warms the branches and the sculpture melts from within.

Wolf is happy the sculpture helps people smile, and even happier when they enter the store and see creations he makes and sells that also elicit smiles.

And he’s planning for next winter already.

“Next year I’m putting lights in it.”

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