CRIPPLE CREEK — Three-year-old Emma Reel of Taylor, Texas, is waiting. The line is long. Still, she jumps and giggles with excitement: In a few minutes, she'll climb a sculpture of an 8-foot-tall ice castle and slide to the bottom.
"I can't wait to go on the slide!" Emma exclaimed, her cheeks rosy from the chilly winds. Behind her, children of all ages waited their turn to enjoy one of Cripple Creek's Ice Festival attractions.
Bennett Avenue in the Teller County town was bustling on the first weekend of the seventh annual Ice Festival, which featured live music, food vendors and intricate ice sculptures of Mickey Mouse, Alice in Wonderland and many other animated characters - the latter to go with this year's theme, "Cartoons In Ice."
Bennett Avenue, one of the town's main roadways, was closed to traffic as more than a thousand people filed in to take in the weekend's festivities, including live rock music, children's laughter and the smells of barbecue and cinammon-roasted almonds.
"My favorites were Mickey Mouse and the ice maze," said 11-year-old Josh Taylor from Colorado Springs. "I want to come back next weekend and see what else they make."
The Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine, the Taj Mahal from Disney's Aladdin and the Little Mermaid were just a few among the cartoon-inspired ice sculptures. Cruella De Vil's vintage car was depicted with a group of Dalmatian puppies and frozen flames spewing out its exhaust pipe.
Stacks of ice blocks weighing more than 100pounds lined Bennett Avenue, waiting for the ice festival to resume Saturday and Sunday.
But the temperature in Cripple Creek reached into the mid-40s during the weekend, which was nice for the public but warm enough to cause parts of the sculptures to melt. The top of the dome of the Taj Mahal from Disney's Aladdin was half-melted by early Sunday afternoon and its intricate carvings were worn down by above-freezing temps.
Jennifer and Arie Tammeling of Colorado Springs made the drive west with their five children.
"It's a little warmer than last year, so the ice is melting, which isn't helping the sculptures very much," said Jennifer Tammeling. "But this is fun, it's our second year coming and we really enjoy it."
Cripple Creek's frozen festivities will kick off at 11 a.m. Saturday. That's when the main vendor tent will open for business, and visitors will get the chance to vote for their favorite ice sculptures. You can also watch artists as they carve the square blocks of ice into beloved cartoon characters.
For more information, visit http://www.visitcripplecreek.com/events.