INSPIRING IGLOO: Rowekamp Family Gets Outdoors With Colorful Creations
Eastside Hill Neighborhood family creates rainbow igloo as part of a mission to spend 1,000 hours outdoors
In the latest of the East Hill Neighborhood’s outdoor escapades, a multicolored igloo magically glows in the front yard of the Rowekamp family. It’s hard to miss when you’re passing by Margaret Street.
“It’s become an attraction,” said local dad Chad Rowekamp, “that’s for sure.”
The igloo accompanies the homemade ice rink already gracing the Rowekamp abode. And there’s no shortage of outdoor activities for this Eau Claire family. After seeing a rainbow-igloo tutorial on YouTube, he asked his seven-year-old daughter Molly if she thought they should make one themselves. Of course, she said yes.
I don't do any of it to brag, or show off. I just hope people get inspired and do it themselves.
People act like these things I do are great, amazing things, but the ideas are just, like, right in front of me, on the Internet. Anyone could do them. You just have to be resourceful.
AWESOME LOCAL DAD
The Rowekamps are already locally known for their heading efforts to get kids – and adults – outside. They’ve made Little Free Sled Libraries, stuffed animal zoos during the lockdown, host lemonade stands in the summertime, “vandalize” local parts of downtown with their colorful chalk creations, and Chad serves as president of the Eastside Hill Neighborhood Association, which is responsible for the Boyd Park Plus project, which aims to bring improved playground facilities – including a new skate park! – to Eau Claire.
The family also participates in the 1,000 Hours Outside challenge, which tries to balance the average 1,000 hours of screen time kids have per year with 1,000 hours outside. Some take the challenge very seriously, Rowekamp said. Others are more casual and see it more as a fun goal.
“The serious people, they’ll get into debates online about the definition of ‘outside.’ Does a tent count? Some say yes, others no,” Rowekamp noted. “Other people are much more casual about pursuing that goal. I’m probably in the middle of that scale.”
For the Rowekamps, spending more time outside is just one part of their goal of community building, connection, and all-around inspiration — and they advocate for the little things. It’s all part of building community and happy, healthy neighborhoods. Thus, the igloo in the front yard. Oh, and an ice rink too.
The family projects aren’t limited to the front yard, though. Rising into the air in their backyard is a miniature Ferris wheel, which Rowekamp crafted using plans he found from the 1920s. Every time his kids Owen and Molly have friends over, he said, they insist on showing their buds the Ferris wheel. Practically it’s designed to let the bottom-most rider spin the wheel by kicking off the ground, but Rowekamp said instead, it usually moves by 100% Dad Power.
While most of us are impressed by Rowekamp creating difficult, elaborate projects for (and with) his kids, he wants people to know that it’s actually easy as pie to work your creative outdoor side.
“I don’t do any of it to brag, or show off,” he said. “ I just hope people get inspired and do it themselves. People act like these things I do are great, amazing things, but the ideas are just, like, right in front of me, on the Internet. Anyone could do them, you just have to be resourceful.”
The main sticky spot is, as you might have guessed, finding time. Rowekamp, always busy, acknowledged that you have to sacrifice some time to be able to spend more outside. For example, he admitted their house is not the tidiest.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, THERE'S A VISION IN MY HEAD FOR WHAT THE WORLD SHOULD BE LIKE. YOU'VE GOT TO BUILD THE PLACE YOU WANT TO LIVE.
president of the Eastside hill neighborhood association
“I don’t necessarily care about having the cleanest house,” he said. “You have to decide what’s important to you. It’s important to me to give my kids a good experience. Something they’ll remember.”
The big change comes from small things, Rowekamp said. He joked that he doesn’t have a billion dollars to change the world, but the little acts each person can do every day – whether it be building an igloo or going on a hike – will go a long way.
“At the end of the day, there’s a vision in my head for what the world should be like,” Rowekamp said. “You’ve got to build the place you want to live.”
HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN COLORFUL IGLOO
- 50-80 disposable 10” x 13” aluminum trays
- Heavy-duty all-purpose hand scoop
- 2 five-gallon buckets
- Heavy-duty storage container
- Food coloring
1. Check the weather forecast. Make sure the evening temperatures will reach below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Lay all of your trays on a flat surface outside. Fill evenly with water.
3. Wait until the top layer of the water is slightly frozen. Add 5-10 drops of food coloring. Neon food coloring generally works best, but go for any color that you like best!
4. Plot your igloo design in your yard. Avoid a sunny spot, where your igloo may melt.
5. Shovel out the snow to make even ground. Create a diameter between 4.5-6 feet.
6. Make your “snow cement.” Mix equal parts cold water and snow in a five-gallon bucket to a slurpee/snowcone consistency.
7. Once your bricks are frozen, lay one layer of bricks horizontally to create your foundation. Then, begin building your igloo with the bricks stacked vertically, using “snow cement” in between each brick to secure your igloo.