Contributed John Rippe built this replica of the Coca-Cola polar bear outside his Vale home during the recent snowstorm.
From polar bears and dinosaurs to penguins and cartoon characters, one Vale resident has a knack for crafting snow sculptures.
While most people seemed to barricade themselves inside their warm homes over the last week, as snow, sleet and ice piled up high across the area, John Rippe ventured outside with an artistic eye to sculpt something special for his daughter, Michelle Rippe, who lives in Chicago.
After spending an afternoon perfecting his work, the 64-year-old discovered he had built a 5-foot-5 replica of the famous Coca-Cola polar bear.
The sculpture, complete with eyes, nose and a riveting smile, donned a red scarf around its neck and a Coke bottle in its hand.
“He did this one for me because of my love for Coca-Cola,” Michelle said in an email to the Times-News on Saturday.
Prior to moving to Lincoln County in 2002, after retiring and wanting to permanently bail from the frigid temperatures of Hammond, Ind., Rippe frequently utilized the snowy weather in his previous Midwestern town to build snow sculptures and amuse both himself and his children on days he didn’t work.
“Where we came from, we got a whole lot more snow,” he said.
Because of his incessant desire to create, he always found himself involved in some form of artistic diversion over the years, from drawing to photography, a more recent hobby of his, he said.
“Everybody calls me an artist of some kind,” Rippe said. “I’m old in age but young at heart.”
He has often had to balance his pull toward perfectionism with his love of producing peculiar and uncommon art pieces.
He blamed his unique inner workings for keeping him from making a simple snowman all these years — an object too ordinary and unimaginative for his innovative taste.
“I just can’t seem to bring myself down to making a regular snowman,” Rippe said. “When I do something, it’s usually unusual.”
He often spent several hours on end with his children, using simply his hands to fashion snow into realistic-looking objects.
His son and daughter have continued to talk about his creations to this day.
“They were always in favor of me doing something like that,” he said.
Rippe added that his only other tool of choice was a kitchen knife, used only to smooth over the finished products.
As to why he got involved in the interesting hobby, his answer was simple.
“I get bored every once in awhile and have to do something different,” he said.
Other snow formations have comprised of penguins surrounding a seal and dinosaurs on at least two different occasions, he said.
Oftentimes, to make the scenes more colorful, he would add food coloring to the snow, requiring multiple pours to achieve just the right shade.
However, he has yet to use color on a sculpture since moving to the area.
“It’s a little bit more difficult and tends to seep in to the snow,” Rippe said.
With forecasts for snow accumulations a rarity across the state, he has no idea when the next opportunity for sculpting will take place.
In the meantime, he may just sit back and enjoy the warmer Southern winters and reflect on the chaos that ensues when snow and ice hit the Carolinas.
“People freak out,” he said laughingly. “Who knows when the next storm will be.”