Snow-piles of dedication
When winter break comes around, often the things college students look forward to most include sleeping in, Netflix binging and spending time with friends and family. Well, if you're a Bartz brother, you don't have time for such luxuries. You're too busy building monstrous snow creatures in your front yard.
The Bartz brothers say it took them 500 hours to complete the octopus. Each morning, they'd start working around 9:30 and wrap up about midnight—for two weeks straight.
And that's always how it's been. "I think our parents were a little surprised when we first started," Austin recalls, "I don't think they envisioned us creating such a large creature or realizing the time it'd take. I don't know if we did either."
Though Austin and his brothers have always loved to tinker around and create things, the explosive response from the community has kept them motivated year after year.
"At this point, we're really doing this for a greater cause."
"One of our favorite encounters," Austin says, "was with a little girl who asked us all for our autographs this year. She was jumping up and down with excitement. It feels awesome that we could make someone's day like that."
"Another favorite encounter," Austin shares, "was when a van of people with disabilities came to see the sculpture. You should've seen the [elated] looks on their faces. They were clapping their hands and jumping up and down. I've never seen anybody so happy in my life. We have nursing home tours too. They love to wave."
Snow and water go together like...
After five years of hardcore snow sculpting and having had the privilege of creating memories for thousands of people, the Bartz brothers felt it was time to take it to the next level.
"At this point, we're really doing this for a greater cause," Austin says, acknowledging their fundraising partnership with One Day's Wages.
"Water and snow, they go together. And clean water is so essential and necessary to live."
Like other Northwestern students, Austin was inspired by a chapel talk given by One Day's Wages founder Eugene Cho. Ryan Paul, another UNW student, gained traction last year for growing out his beard as he raised money for the organization.
Austin thought it was a great idea and was inspired to partner with the organization too. "It makes sense—you know, water and snow, they go together. And clean water is so essential and necessary to live."
Given the number of people the Bartz sculptures attract, Austin and his brothers believe they can make a big impact.
Their parents are on board and "definitely help a lot," Austin says.
Mom feeds the boys six to seven meals a day while they're outside working on the sculpture—let that sink in—six to seven meals—a day. Dad loves being outside welcoming people and directing traffic. They also provide major finances—heating the garage so the boys can sculpt snow as well as illuminate five 500-watt lights surrounding the sculpture so passers-by can view the sculpture at night. Compare that to a regular under-60-watt light bulb and you can imagine their electric bill is, as Austin puts it, 'sky-high in January.'
Once the sculpture is created, the Bartz brothers' work is far from done. Opening night alone, they had an estimated 1,000 people on their front lawn. They cheerfully spend hours a day chatting with people who come to see the octopus, which means being willing to get in and out of layers of winter gear roughly 10-20 times a day. "We try to be as available as possible. People like having their picture taken with the octopus."