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Five Spectacular Ice and Snow Sculpture Exhibits Around the World

Even though many people living in the Northern Hemisphere are patiently awaiting Old Man Winter's springtime departure, others around the globe, from northeast China to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, are taking time to celebrate the winter season with elaborate ice and snow sculptures, along with other annual wintertime traditions.

Take a look at five of the world's most spectacular winter festivals, showcasing amazing works of art, skillfully sculpted from ice and snow.

China's Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

For nearly three decades, Harbin, located in northeastern China, has been the site of an entire city sculpted from ice and snow.

The crystal structures that adorn the festival stand aglow at night for tourists from around the world.

"For years, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival has become the world's most important winter tourist destination and photographers' paradise," according to the festival's website.

Beginning in December and held through February, the three-month long event attracts thousands upon thousands to the city made of ice. However, the official opening of the event occurs on Jan. 5.

According to Meteorologist Jim Andrews, the average temperatures for February are well below freezing, allowing the structures to remain intact.

The attractions are split into three sections of the park, featuring winter activities including the annual ice and snow carnival, an ice lantern show, winter sports, folk music and dance performances.

Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival

The Sapporo Snow Festival, located in Japan's fourth-largest city on the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido, began in 1950, and now attracts more than 2 million people each year.

"For seven days in February, Sapporo is turned into a winter dreamland of crystal-like ice and white snow," according to the festival's website.

Even with an annual snowfall average of approximately 191 inches, additional snow is transported to Sapporo's winter festival site in order to feature the hundreds of elaborate snow and ice sculptures, which surround the city's famous Odori Park.

"The Festival has grown from a humble beginning to become one of the biggest and most well-known winter events. The Snow Festival is considered to be a festival of international-caliber."

Ice Alaska's BP World Ice Art Championships

For the past 26 years, Fairbanks, Alaska, has been home to one of the world's largest, international ice sculpture competitions and exhibitions, featuring more than 100 ice artists and nearly 45,000 visitors each year.

"The Fairbanks event, the BP World Ice Art Championships, has grown to a month-long attraction involving over 70 teams from all over the world," according to the exhibit's website.

Since its foundations, the competition has featured artists from at least 44 countries.

Visitors can not only admire the craftsmanship of the great ice sculptures nestled around the ice park, but partake in learning the skill themselves with ice-sculpting classes. The event's Kids Park, sculpted entirely from ice, also features plenty of activities for children looking to share in the winter celebrations.

"There are slides and rides for all ages, challenging mazes, and life-sized sculptures of favorite animals, popular characters and toys to touch and climb on," according to the website.

Canada's Carnaval de Quebec

Upholding traditions dating back to the formation of the French Colony, Quebec City, is now the site of one of the largest winter celebrations in the world.

"The first large winter Carnival in Quebec City, the world's snow capital, took place in 1894," according to the event's website. "Often faced with winter's hardships, the city's population reinvented this popular tradition with a winter celebration that warmed up the hearts of all of it revelers."

The modern festival got its official start in 1950, and now attracts more than 600,000 people each year and generates an estimated $31 million in tourism dollars each winter.

Among the many traditions featured at the Winter Carnival is the annual snow sculpture competition, and nighttime parades, which attract thousands of spectators.

"Seeing a sculpture being created, discovering it and watching it come to life is pure magic," according to the website.

"There are many enthusiasts on site for the whole magical night as the powerful silence is only interrupted by the final hammer blows of the artists who create like a song in the night, confirming that the Québec Winter Carnival's International Snow Sculpture Competition is an extraordinary event."

Michigan Technology University's Winter Carnival

With beginnings dating back to 1922, Michigan Technology University's Winter Carnival has become a longstanding tradition for the cities of Houghton and Hancock.

The university's students compete to create the winning snow sculpture each year to match the event's theme. For 2015, the theme is "While frozen in the ice and snow, we dream of vacations on which to go."

"The artists are actually part of student organizations," Michigan Tech's Blue Key Honor Society President Andrew Conley said, adding that 54 sculptures have been constructed for the 2015 event.

With an annual snowfall average in the region of 207.7 inches, there is no shortage of snow for the event.

Other annual traditions dating back to the 1920s include the annual pageant and coronation of the winter carnival's queen. Winter activities including ice-bowling, curling and speed skating are also featured, Conley said.

The winner of the snow sculpture competition is awarded a traveling trophy that goes back 50 years.

"Every year, we add a name to it," Conley added.

While there is not an exact estimate of how many attend the Winter Carnival each year, the event is a major source of economic revenue for cities surrounding the university.

"We did an economic study in 2001, and we believe [it generates] $2 million for the local community," he said. "It is something everyone looks forward to every year."