The St. Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation of Minnesota brought event production company Showcore in to design and run its Winer Carnival’s nightly light shows, which included illumination of a 70-foot tall ice palace using Elation Professional IP65-rated lighting.
The massive St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Palace was built out of ice blocks harvested from a lake in Minnesota and constructed in Rice Park in downtown St. Paul. Showcore used Elation Professional SixBar 1000 IP LED battens within the structure to glow the palace walls; IP65-rated Proteus Beam moving heads to shoot moving pillars of light from the tops of the towers; Elation Professional Arena Zoom Q7 IP PAR colour changers to uplight elaborate ice sculptures carved throughout the run of show. Josh Wabaunsee of Showcore served as lead lighting designer on the project.
Showcore is based locally in the Twin Cities area and has worked with the Winter Carnival for the last 4 years, this year handling everything from lighting plot design to programming, installation, and nightly board operation.
“Our role was to make the ice palace light up in colourful themed looks depending on the celebration of the night, and to provide scheduled time-coded light shows to prerecorded songs that would play in the park,” stated Showcore’s Chris LeBlanc. “We were also responsible for lighting sponsor signs and banners, as well as all of the ice sculptures that are carved over the course of the second week.”
The Elation Professional SixBar 1000 IPs – one-meter long colour-changing battens with 6-colour LED multi-chips – were mounted to the scaffolding inside the ice palace’s tower walls along ground level and used to uplight the inside of the ice blocks. “Any time there was a change in architecture, such as the second and third inner layers of the tall towers, we added another layer of SixBars inside to uplight that layer of ice,” said LeBlanc. Over 80 SixBar fixtures were used throughout the palace within the towers and behind the audience-facing ice walls.
“They provided a nice, even glow throughout the palace at night and allowed us to change the colour of the entire palace with the push of a button on the console,” LeBlanc explained. “The ice was emanating light from within and it gave an otherworldly appearance. We were also able to chase light any direction throughout the palace towers, which allowed us to ‘swirl’ light around in 3D space during the timecode-synced pieces.”
The Elation Professional SixBars allowed the design team to build themed looks quickly for special themed nights. When the American Heart Association introduced the programming one evening, Showcore created a pumping red look by chasing the SixBars slowly like the pulse of a heart. LeBlanc says it was essential to have the flexibility to turn the entire palace different colours quickly.
The Elation Professional SixBar’s multi-environmental protection design is popular among rental companies that work outdoor events as it provides protection against the elements while eliminating the need for weatherproof coverings.
LeBlanc commented: “The IP rating certainly helped, given the unforgiving environment of zero degree weather with fixtures encased in ice for two weeks and getting snowed on from above. Despite that impossible environment and blowing the doors off of what any normal IP rating can promise, we had no malfunctioning in any of the SixBar fixtures. I can’t recommend putting any fixtures in that environment, but the SixBars performed exceptionally well.”
Showcore also incorporated effects from Elation’s award-winning Proteus Beam moving head, 2-degree beam lights that also carry a fully weatherproof IP65 rating. The narrow beam effects were used to project animated pillars of light from the tops of the ice palace’s six towers.
“We could use them as beacon lights that shot white beams straight up from the towers, or we could make them move and paint the inside of the tower tops to music,” LeBlanc stated, adding that since the fixtures were installed in the tops of the ice towers, they had to lower two of the Proteus fixtures into the highest towers using construction cranes.
“The beams produced by the Proteus fixtures looked amazing, catching the snow and ice blowing around in the night sky,” LeBlanc stated, adding that the pillars of light could be seen for blocks away. “Since it was a celebration of winter, having lights that highlighted the snow and ice in the air really completed the look.”
One of the biggest draws of the St. Paul Winter Carnival is the ice carving contests, where carvers create amazing and intricate statues out of ice blocks over the course of several days. Some of the carvers are outside for days in temperatures close to zero degrees to carve their designs in time. At night, Showcore used the Arena Zoom Q7 IP color changers to uplight the sculptures and add dramatic colour to the pieces. “We needed a powerful fixture with RGB colour flexibility that could light a large sculpture using only one or two fixtures while contributing to the artist’s scene.”
Showcore not only had to meet the challenge of creating spectacular lighting environments, they had to deal with the cold and weather that a Minnesota winter is famous for. “It was one of the harshest environments you could put a light fixture in since most of them were surrounded by ice but still exposed to snow from above and gusty, freezing wind,” said LeBlanc, who added that throughout the event the average temperature was 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 Celsius) with a low of 9 degrees below zero Fahrenheit one day (-23 Celsius). “We asked a lot of the fixtures to say the least and had very few issues with our gear related to the weather.”
Showcore personnel had to power cycle the Proteus Beams a couple of times, LeBlanc acknowledges, but says the fixtures snapped right back into action once restarted. The SixBars and Arena Pars had zero mechanical issues, he reports, an admirable record given the environment. “The Winter Carnival is a celebration of harsh weather and the IP-rated fixtures from Elation handled everything January in Minnesota could throw at them,” he stated.
For LeBlanc, the highlight of the show was the first night, where everything came together for a great opening ceremony and light show. “We kicked off the show with our light show to Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy, along with a pyrotechnics accompaniment. It was a great show and it all came together as planned with a massive spectacle and party in the freezing cold. It was an honour to be involved with such a unique local celebration.”