The normally quiet Columbine Street in the Airport Heights neighborhood of Anchorage started seeing a lot of traffic last weekend, and the stream of cars full of gawkers with cameras will likely remain fairly steady until the snow melts in spring. The people are coming to see the famous Snowzilla, a 25-foot-high snowman recently built in the front yard of Billy Powers’ home.
Snowzilla first appeared on Powers’ lawn in 2005. Back then, he was a mere 16 feet tall and featured a corncob pipe, a carrot nose and two eyes made out of beer bottles. As the construction gained popularity, Powers played to his fans and increased the size of the snowman each year until it reached 25 feet in 2008.
But about that time, Snowzilla’s fame came crashing down around him—as is too often the case with celebrity—and the Municipality of Anchorage slapped Powers with a cease-and-desist order (stuck to Snowzilla’s base), complaining that the snowman’s presence attracted too much traffic and created a hazard to safety and good order (which must have been a familiar criticism for Powers, whose junk-strewn yard had several times been the target of city code enforcers, even when Snowzilla was just a puddle and a memory). Just days later, Snowzilla was dismantled and all that was left was a pile of rubble on Powers’ lawn.
But if you think the good people of Anchorage are the type to sit back quietly and let the government tell them where they can and cannot build a 25-foot-snowperson, you have another think coming. Letters poured in to the Anchorage Daily News decrying municipal interference with an inoffensive holiday tradition, snowman protesters were built on the sidewalk outside City Hall, and a website, www.snowzilla.org, was established to rally supporters. Snowzilla suddenly had a cult following, and when he mysteriously arose from the dead just a few days later (Powers denied rebuilding, saying the snowman simply reappeared on his lawn) the story hit the national news.
The hubbub died down a bit with the election of a new mayor and, in 2009, Powers was allowed to build the snowman in peace.
Snowzilla is back again this winter, having waited until early 2011 to make his appearance because of poor snow conditions. And I went to see him on Sunday, as I do every year, to marvel at the time and energy that must go into to building him, to show my son one of Anchorage’s winter oddities, and to give a nod to a symbol of Alaska civil disobedience enacted, appropriately enough, in snow.
—Rebecca Luczycki is senior editor of Alaska magazine.