It's Valentine's Day, but Missoula's biggest snowman has no love story to tell.
Still, the pinkish-red, three-dimensional heart he wears right on his chest is a nod to romance and, truth be told, the best thing the 13-foot-tall Frosty has going for him. The heart has certainly drawn in the neighborhood.
Consider Jan Howard, who is smitten with her new neighbor.
An impromptu snowman-building session after the major storm that hit Missoula in late January yielded the giant snowman at 141 Strand Ave. He's got gourds for eyes and yardsticks for arms. His buttons are charcoal briquettes and his nose is not just one, but a bundle of carrots. He's got antlers for some reason, too.
Howard watched from across the street as the snowman was erected by Mike Violette and Dan and Kris Lefler. Standing there on the porch, Howard found herself a little in love as she gazed into his slightly googly-eyes and bicycle tire tube smile. His return of her gaze was relentless.
"I was laughing so hard, my stomach hurt," said Howard. "He's definitely melted my heart and many other hearts."
Howard has watched through the weeks as cars slow, stop, turn around and back up - illegally - to admire the snowman.
"People laugh, giggle, smile, take pictures. People of all ages," Howard said.
The snowman's architects are pleased with their creation and happy it's made so many people smile. Violette and Kris are siblings, and Dan Lefler is married to Kris. The snowman sits on the Strand Avenue lawn of Kris and Mike's parents.
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They can't actually prove their snowman is the "biggest snowman in Missoula," but that's what they set out to build about three weeks ago after the big storm left close to two feet of snow in Missoula.
"I said to everyone, ‘This is perfect snowman-building weather,' " said Dan Lefler, whose own head barely reaches the snowman's first charcoal button. The trio agreed and construction was under way. The plan was simple enough - build until they couldn't build any more. They began with two shovels, working fast to pile snow in the front yard. The traditional method of rolling snowballs just wasn't going to work for this giant.
"I'm sure we looked insane," Lefler said. "Piling snow 10 feet deep. Like I said, we were moving some snow to get it done. We just thought, ‘Let's build it as big as we can with the equipment we have.' "
They'd pile, then sculpt. Pile, then sculpt. To add the head, they propped a ladder against the nearly 10-foot-tall shoulders and hoisted a "smaller" snowball on top.
"We didn't want it to look like the Michelin Man or Pillsbury Doughboy," Lefler said. "When we put the head on, it weighed 200 pounds, somewhere around there."
The foot-long heart was added later at Jan Howard's suggestion. It's maintained by Violette, who reshapes it and adds red food coloring through a spray bottle on days when the coloring has bled away.
The sun and warmer weather have been hard on the snowman. Parts of his back side have melted away, forcing Violette to mend both his broken heart and his rear end. His rubber smile has also fallen repeatedly to the ground, sending Violette up a ladder to restore his grin.
Even with the warmer weather, Lefler thinks the snowman will be around for a while just because he's made of so much snow. There may even be enough snow to replace the heart with a shamrock come St. Patrick's Day.
Howard says there's already been repeat visitors checking in on Missoula's biggest Frosty.
As for the snowman himself, he keeps his eyes right on his neighbor's porch, where it's a good thing that Howard's husband isn't jealous of his wife's tall, snowy suitor on Valentine's Day.