Chilly ice gallery opens to warm reception

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ST. THOMAS - St. Thomas welcomed an icy new tourist attraction to the island Tuesday.

The Magic Ice Gallery is a frosty venue filled with crystal clear ice sculptures depicting everything from Caribbean wildlife to Vikings.

Gallery general manager Kirsten-Marie Holmen welcomed a huge crowd to the gallery's grand opening Tuesday and opened with a joke.

"You may wonder why we chose St. Thomas," Holmen said. "I assure you, it was not the WAPA bill."

Holmen is a partner in Magic Ice Inc., which also has an ice museum in Norway. She said that when the company was looking to expand into the Caribbean, she contacted seven potential island locations, and Gov. John deJongh Jr. responded immediately and positively, winning her over right away.

The governor spoke at Tuesday's grand opening, welcoming the new attraction as a revitalization of downtown Charlotte Amalie.

"This is an opportunity to redevelop the west end of Main Street, which we've all been wanting to do," deJongh said.

The attraction is housed in a long narrow building that extends from its entrance on Veterans Drive to the exit on Main Street. Inside, the 9,257-square-foot ice museum is kept at a chilly 25 degrees.

Thankfully, museum staff handed navy blue poncho-style parkas with white faux-fur trimmed hoods to visitors to the museum Tuesday. Staff also provided gloves - but not boots - before the heavy doors opened and guests entered the Magic Ice Gallery.

People gawked at the sculptures. Pirates, sea turtles, a 9-foot tall Caribbean market woman, a Viking ship and even a bust of deJongh decorate the enormous space.

"The art is top, top class," Holmen said. "This is the best exhibition in the world."

An ice slide is available for children, and a long ice bar serves up drinks.

Holmen has said she estimates the attraction's electric bill will be between $300,000 and $400,000 per year. A generator protects the ice from frequent power outages.

Holmen said she expects most visitors to spend about a half hour to an hour in the gallery. A drink at the bar and a souvenir glass come with the $32 entrance fee.

Locals will receive a discounted entrance fee.

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