Drivers who travel past the intersection of 4th Street and 21st Avenue East in Duluth during the winter months have grown accustomed to seeing snow sculptures in the yard of Harry Welty, who lives right on the corner of the two intersecting streets. In the 25 years Welty has been carving snow statues in his yard, none have been quite as meaningful as the one currently on display.

If you had asked Harry what he planned to create in his yard a couple weeks ago, he says it would likely have been something simple like a snowflake. With the painful national tragedy that took place in Connecticut last week, the inspiration behind his yearly tradition changed from a fun winter symbol to something with much deeper meaning. Harry says the painful and devastating news impacting families in Connecticut and around the country not only changed his plans, but further motivated him to proceed with a project he had otherwise been considering not doing this year.

Harry says this year's sculpture, which he is referring to as "Guardian Angel", stands as a testament to the guardian angels looking out for those impacted by the travesty in Connecticut. He also offers it as a reminder to everyone to be thankful for the guardian angels we all have looking out for us. The snow artwork displays a guardian angel looking over two children. The children are sculpted in the image of a touching photo taken after the shooting in Connecticut showing a young girl holding a young boy as he looks on in horror at what had just happened.

Inspiration for the children in the sculpture. Photo by Nick Cooper - Townsquare Media Duluth
Inspiration for the children in the sculpture. Photo by Nick Cooper - Townsquare Media Duluth

The snow statue, which stands nearly complete as of today (December 18), has been days in the making. Harry started moving snow from his back yard about five days ago and began molding the mound of snow into what he envisioned. Weekend rain slowed his progress, but he took the unseasonable rain in stride, waiting for things to re-freeze so he could get back to work. In all, he spent some time over the course of three days moving snow into place, and has spent another couple of days carving and fine-tuning his piece.

While admitting that this sculpture has particular meaning, Harry says he takes great pride in all of the snow monuments he has constructed over the years. "[Asking which is my favorite] is dangerous. It's like asking a parent which is their favorite child " Harry chuckled as continued to put the finishing touches on this year's sculpture. "I've made a lot, and I've enjoyed them all."

The tradition got its start in 1987, when his daughter was sledding down the hill in the family's yard and asked Harry to make a snow dinosaur. He recalled his first work, saying "It looked like an iguana with an overbite". It was the first of what has been many in his yard, which also includes one of his biggest projects; a giant gorilla with a red Santa hat that his wife made. Among many others that have varied in detail and size, Harry also recalled a carving of Bill Clinton blowing on a saxophone that he did in 1992.

Through the years, many people have honked, waved, or stopped by to offer gratitude for the fun winter creations that have become a staple in East Duluth. Harry mentioned that while a few of his politically-themed pieces have garnered a few shouts or shaking fists from some people passing by, nobody has ever disturbed his snow art.

If the weather remains cold, Harry expects this year's creation to last at least a couple weeks - until temperatures warm up. Luckily, for those who would like to see the sculpture in person, the weather is predicted to remain well below freezing through the end of 2012.

Photos of Harry Welty's Guardian Angel Snow Sculpture

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