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ICE ICE BABY: John Imaizumi helps to cool things off for visitors every holiday season.
Ice in Texas is a bit of an anomaly, but the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine uses 2 million pounds of it to draw guests each holiday season. Through New Year’s Day 2013, the Dallas/Fort Worth-area mega?resort (are you sensing a “big” theme here?) will present its ninth annual Ice! attraction. Conceived in 2001 (before the Texan opened in 2004), Ice! has become a yearly tradition at the four Gaylord Resorts across the country. Kids of all ages love the way ice slides, intricate ice carvings and cozy (and provided) winter parkas come together to create a winter-wonderland experience in a state that rarely sees snow. Here, John Imaizumi, the resort’s senior vice president and general manager, shares his insight about the veritable army of staff and craftspeople it takes to create this city-size attraction that keeps guests coming back year after year.


Ice!
By the Numbers

2,000,000 pounds: amount of ice used to create the Ice! attraction, and it’s all made in the resort’s local ice plant

14,000 square feet: space the Ice! attraction covers

5,000: ice blocks that are hand-carved and transformed into a winter wonderland

1,500: number of specially designed tube lights frozen in the ice

400 pounds: weight of each ice block

40: number of master ice artisans who travel to each Gaylord Hotels property to hand-carve the ice

30: number of days it takes the master ice artisans to hand-carve the Ice! attraction

12: colors of ice, each created with basic food coloring

9 degrees Fahrenheit: temperature inside the Ice! attraction

0: tubes of glue; the only bonding agent is water


AMERICAN WAY: How did you come up with the idea for this year’s Ice! theme of Merry Madagascar?
JOHN IMAIZUMI: In 2011, we formed a marketing alliance with DreamWorks Animation that allowed us to begin offering DreamWorks-themed activities for families. Last year’s Ice! was themed after Shrek the Halls, and it was a huge success. We’re very excited about producing this year’s second DreamWorks holiday theme, Merry Madagascar, following the Madagascar 3 hit.

AW: It’s based on the DreamWorks film. What’s it like collaborating with one of the great animation houses?
JI: Absolutely awesome. Their CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and his creative team have been wonderful. DreamWorks ?Animation has a very fun, strong employee culture that works very well with our STARS (Smiles, Teamwork, Attitude, Reliability and Service with a passion) First Culture at Gaylord. Taking great care of our staff, fostering creativity and providing entertaining experiences for customers is extremely important to both of our companies.

AW: What is it that makes the Ice! attraction so exciting?
JI: First, 2 million pounds of ice. Beside our Gaylord Hotels properties, you can’t find a hand-carved ice attraction of this size and caliber in the United States. The way Ice! is created by master ice artisans from Harbin, China (known as the “ice city”), is a story within itself. And the experience guests have as they walk through the wintery attraction and discover the amazing skill, dramatic lighting, holiday music and special effects is so unique. How can you not get excited?

AW: Bringing 40 artists over from China is quite an undertaking. What are some of the challenges facing an international operation like this?
JI: The entire execution takes an incredible amount of preparation from the designing stages on. We begin constructing the 14,000-square-foot Ice! tent from scratch in August. The ice artisans arrive at the beginning of October and spend a month carving. In the beginning stages, it is a full-blown construction site. By the end, though, the ice artisans are delicately chiseling the final touches, and everything looks just beautiful.

AW: When do you start planning each year’s attraction?
JI: We start planning before the current Lone Star Christmas and Ice! season has even started. Our special-events team is already working now to plan our 2013 events and beyond.


Ice! Around the Country
› Gaylord Opryland, Nashville, Tenn.
› Gaylord Palms, Kissimmee, Fla.
› Gaylord National, National Harbor, Md.
Admission: from $22 for adults, $12 for children under 11
› www.gaylordhotels.com