Sapporo Snow Festival 2020: A Top Gun Snow Build

Story by Joel Diller, U.S. Naval Support Activity Souda Bay

The Navy Misawa Snow Team completed this year’s version of their annual snow sculpture at the 71st Sapporo Snow Festival on Feb. 3, 2020.

This year’s concept was centered around naval aviation, with the primary sculpture being the bust of a pilot in a cockpit, with the popular v-shaped finger peace sign. It also included a carving of the enlisted aviation warfare insignia, and a large version of the logo commemorating the 60-year alliance between the United States and Japan.

Sailors from Naval Air Facility Misawa and tenant commands shovel snow in order to add more designs to a snow sculpture during the 71st Annual Sapporo Snow Festival, Jan. 31.
(Photo by MC3 Jan David De Luna Mercado)

“I enjoyed guiding newcomers on the techniques and subtleties of snow sculpture and demonstrating the interaction opportunities we have with the public,” said Builder 1st Class Jenny Cunningham, assigned to Naval Facilities Engineering Command Far East, Misawa Detachment, the only returning sculptor from last year’s team.

“I have the opportunity to demonstrate Navy teamwork and cooperation and interact with Japanese Locals and visitors to the snow festival from around the world,” said Cunningham.

The team began working on the sculpture January 28, carving from a 6 foot-by-6 foot block of compacted snow. With the statue’s completion, it was left on display for the festival goers expected to visit Sapporo during this year’s festivities. Previous works have included many famous U.S. Navy icons and symbols such as a replica of the Lone Sailor statue, the Fighting Bees Seabees logo, the ship USS Constitution and more.

The weather varied initially, with days of sun, warmer temperatures and rain, mixed with nights of snow, making it difficult to add detail to the statue. Many of the details and writing on the statue had to be rebuilt and repacked every morning.

To counteract the warmer weather, the team arrived well before the other teams in the park, and left in the afternoon when carving was no longer an option without the statue deteriorating. The Misawa Snow Team met the challenge head on and took advantage of the short windows of truly cold weather to meet their Monday deadline.

Consul General Andrew Lee, U.S. Consulate General to Sapporo, meets with the 2020 Navy Misawa Sapporo Snow Team during the 71st Annual Sapporo Snow Festival, Jan. 31.
(Photo by MC3 Jan David De Luna Mercado)
Sailors from Naval Air Facility Misawa and tenant commands add details to a snow statue during the 71st Annual Sapporo Snow Festival, Jan. 31.
(Photo by MC3 Jan David De Luna Mercado)
Consul General Andrew Lee, U.S. Consulate General to Sapporo, left, and his son, middle, help build the Navy Misawa snow sculpture with Builder 1st Class Anthonyl Cabrera, assigned to Naval Facilities Engineering Command Far East Misawa Detatchment, during the 71st Annual Sapporo Snow Festival, Jan. 31.
(Photo by MC3 Jan David De Luna Mercado)

Consul General Andrew Lee, U.S. Consulate General to Sapporo, stopped by the statue with his family to meet this year’s team and gave them a hand building the sculpture.

The Sailors chosen to act as the Navy’s ambassadors to Sapporo this year were selected by their commands due to their superior performance both on and off duty.

“It’s an honor to represent the Navy at a historic Japanese festival and strengthen international relations with one of our foremost allies in the region,” said Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Miller assigned to Commander, Task Force 72.

“I was going to travel to Sapporo on my own dime, so when I found out I got to stay for over a week, and get to help build a sculpture, I was thrilled,” said Miller.

The Navy team is one of several dozen teams designing sculptures this year, with teams ranging from Poland to Australia. The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force contributes two of the largest snow sculptures to the snow festival, ranging 40-by-80 feet in size. In previous years, JGSDF built structures modeled after Big Ben of London and the Arch De Triumph of Paris.

The team now moves on to the community outreach portion of their mission in Sapporo. For the rest of their stay, the team will interact with festival visitors and participate in two community relations projects before returning to Misawa on Feb. 8.

Sailors from Naval Air Facility Misawa and tenant commands pose for a picture during the 71st Annual Sapporo Snow Festival, Feb. 4. (Photo by MC3 Jan David De Luna Mercado)

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