Brrrrrrl Ives: ICE! Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

December 10, 2017 — Two million pounds of purified, colored ice. A troupe of master ice sculptors from Harbin, China, home of the mindbogglingly magical Harbin Ice Festival. One beloved, time-tested Christmas intellectual property. That was the formula that pulled me into Gaylord Resort’s ICE! at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland in 2010. That IP was The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and walking through the regulated nine-degree temperature space adorned in one of their signature pale blue parkas that you wear over your own coat and makes you feel Santa-sized while wandering and wondering with open mouth and frozen tonsils at the life-sized and larger-than-life brightly colored ice sculptures, completely immersed in the world of the Whos and the Grinch and Mount Crumpit, was as astounding an experience as this sentence is long. OTIS article here.

Enough so that when I had the opportunity to attend it again in 2014 (after four years waiting for my core temperature to return to normal), I dashed at it, to the top of the porch, to the top of the wall. This time it was for Frosty the Snowman, which despite the messy philosophical quandary the special shoves me down into every time I watch it, is still a show I really, really dig. OTIS article here.

And then I thought I was done with the event. It was great, but it was a great that I got. But then this year, I was in Maryland again during December, and the theme for this year’s Gaylord ICE! event was the Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, my favorite Christmas special of all time. For two reasons.

One, the Bumble. I love monsters. And I love Yetis as Christmas characters. And I love watching him get all his teeth pulled by freezing cold plyers at the tiny hands of an elf with bad leverage asking him over and over, “Is it safe?” Just kidding. That’s the only part of the show I hate. Well, that and Santa’s hypocrisy toward Rudolph.

But the other reason is my real reason for the season. The Burl Ives Snowman. I love that guy. I want him to be a recurring character in all of our Christmas mythology, not just this one special. Kind of like how Coke Santa and Rudolph got promoted at some point in the past and like how Krampus is currently getting promoted. Burl Ives Snowman is everything I love about intellectual property Christmas.

Seeing Burl Ives and the Bumble carved in colored ice at life-sized proportions was too hard for me to resist, so I talked my family into braving both a snowstorm and the Beltway to hit up the Gaylord Resort at the National Harbor.

The experience overall was the same as my previous ones, a big joyful crowd and an artificial cold so cold that exiting the refrigerated building into the 35-degree snowy outdoors felt like stepping into a warm air current. No hyperbole on that one. It really felt warm. Also, this time, I made a fool of myself on the ice slide when it turned out my posterior and/or my pants fabric weren’t ice-o-dynamic enough to let me slide, so I had to repeat an awkward, inching scoot 40 times to get to the bottom in front of about 50 people taking footage of their kids sliding with glee down the other slides—and, inadvertently, me.

But all of it was worth it for the glittering sculptures of stop-motion Christmas icons and the payoff for my kids of making them watch the special every night for the past week. They still were just in it for the ice slides, though.

But I saw my Bumble. And my Burl Ives Snowman. And Santa can take the rest of the year off as far as I’m concerned.