About 180 or so local folks, – business people, kids with parents, a smattering of politicians, including one governor – trekked through four below zero weather Tuesday afternoon, and came out smiling: one might safely say, in fact, delighted.
Kirsten Marie Holmen was equally delighted to welcome visitors to her Magic Ice Gallery, a concept she introduced to the island in October, with a promised three to four month opening.
At that time, the building, which stretches from Veterans Drive to Main Street next to International Plaza, was abuzz with construction as workers installed polyurethane panels on walls of the 203-foot building, put up LED lighting, and carved out interior walls.
Holmen opened the first Magic Ice Gallery in her native Norway’s Lofoten Islands in 2004, and four years later, it was voted the best attraction in those islands, receiving 30,000 visitors a year.
With remarkable energy and business acumen, Holmen has brought that fairyland concept to St. Thomas, the only gallery of its kind in the Caribbean.
In a ceremony before the grand tour, Gov. John deJongh Jr. spoke with Holmen about how the project came to be.
"I had written to many of the Caribbean islands with a proposal," Holmen said, "and your, or I mean "our," governor was the only one to reply."
DeJongh said, "That was one email I’m happy I replied to. This will be a great attraction for the community, and it’s a unique experience for our visitors. And, it is indicative of Kirsten Holmen’s faith in our Virgin Islands tourism market."
Shortly after, the governor was surprised. Bundled in a warm furry parka, he led the group in a frigid tour, suddenly coming face to face with his very own image. However, he recovered from the experience sufficiently to christen his icy likeness with a bottle of Cruzan rum, giving a toast to Holmen.
Crafted from several tons of Arctic ice shipped from the northern part of Norway, the permanent exhibition is constructed of crystal-clear ice in sub-zero temperature.
Walking through the icy wonderland is a trip to another beautifully wrought world. Crystal clear ice sculptures surround, and include everything from Santa and reindeer to turtles, iguanas, a market lady, and swans. A new image greets patrons at every juncture, and the tour winds up at a bar in the shape of a ship completely made of ice where icy rum punches are on offer, although many of the folks at this point looked like a hot buttered rum might be a better idea.
Diana White, Rotary District 7020 Governor said she first met Holmen in 2010 at a Rotary function in the states. "Kirsten was also a District Governor, and when I told her where I was from, she mentioned her idea for Magic Ice here. It’s so exciting now to actually see it."
Folks seemed a bit overwhelmed after the tour, exchanging notes while rubbing hands and stamping feet to get a little circulation going.
Business owner Suzanne Robinson, who has lived on St. Thomas for decades, had a novel assessment. "I remember when this was Edith Finer’s flower shop where you could get fresh mushrooms and real cream," Robinson said. "Then it was the Raleigh Bike Shop, and, well, I never would have imagined an ice palace!"
Speaking before the tour, when asked about her WAPA bills, Holmen said, "I really don’t know how much I’ve paid, but they bill me every five days. I guess they are worried."
Magic Ice is open all year round from 9:00am to 5:00pm., and is also open to groups at additional times by appointment.
Adult $ 32
Child (4 -16 yrs) $ 15
Child (under 4) Free
Family (2 adults + 2 children) $ 75