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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
South Jersey

Chef's ice sculpture of battleship will adorn Sunday's victory bash

AL SCHELL/Courier-Post
Chef Joe Wenzke of Palmyra turns a 300-pound ice block ito a 4-foot-long replica of the battleship USS New Jersey outside Georgetti's Pasta and Sauce Market in Cinnaminson. the sculpture will be a centerpiece at Sunday's victory bash.

Courier-Post staff


The pitch of the buzzing chain saw fluctuated up and down like a song being hummed as the tool met and sliced into the block of ice.

Under the deft hands of Joe Wenzke of Palmyra, the saw cut through larger sections, then shaved off almost paper-thin layers of ice, sending crystals flying.

What started out Thursday as a solid 300-pound ice block became a sculpture of the battleship USS New Jersey.

The creation will be one of the centerpieces at a free party Sunday to celebrate the Navy's recent decision to place the historic ship as a museum along the Camden Waterfront.

The event will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. in the E-Centre's lobby in Camden.

"I've done ships before and this is the second time I've done the New Jersey, so I'm getting pretty good at it," said Wenzke, 24, a cook at Georgetti's Pasta and Sauce Market on Cinnaminson Avenue and a graduate of Johnson and Wales University's culinary school.

"I'm just glad to see the ship coming back where it belongs."

The nonprofit Home Port Alliance, a diverse group from South Jersey, won the ship for Camden in an intense competition with the formidable state Battleship Commission, which sought to moor the ship in Bayonne.

The ship was built with the help of South Jerseyans at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard during World War II.

Wenzke carved the ice sculpture free of charge. Bob Walters, 63, of Cinnaminson, a Korean War crew member of the battleship, paid for the ice.

Wenzke, who was crafting the vessel outside the market where he works, was concerned Thursday the temperature was too cold for his artistry.

"The best conditions for sculpting are when the temperature is about 40 degrees. Otherwise, the risk of the ice cracking while you're working is greater," Wenzke said.

Alternating between the saw and a chisel for two hours, he fashioned a ship more than four feet long with a sleek V-shaped bow, gun turrets and superstructure. It will be kept in a freezer until Sunday.

Walters, who worked in the navigation department aboard the New Jersey, watched with keen interest and snapped photographs.

"I just wish I could have donated the real ship without all the hassle we went through to get it for South Jersey," he said.

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