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Riley back with massive snow sculpture to spread ‘good vibes’

February 20, 2021 | 6:11 pm

Updated February 20, 2021 | 6:12 pm

Zion (right), along with his brother Emaun and mother Zaneta, built a SpongeBob SquarePants snow sculpture in their front yard. | Photo by Ryan Richardson

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Zion Riley is back with another massive snow sculpture on Lewis Lane — this time with help from his mom and brother. With their SpongeBob SquarePants snow sculpture that stands more than 6 feet tall, the family is hoping to send some good vibes during a tough time.

For previous sculptures, Zion — an Owensboro High School graduate and current sophomore at the University of Southern Indiana — did the work himself. This year, his mom Zaneta and brother Emaun wanted to surprise Zion and do one themselves.

“We made a pact that we were going to do one so we could make him proud and to make people smile,” Zaneta said.

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They quickly found out how difficult it was and called Zion to come help finish the job. 

Zaneta said her son’s previous works of art made a big impact on the community, and she thought it was especially important to try to do something this year. 

“It kind of gives people some excitement and gives them a reason to keep driving by,” she said. “This year especially was important because people have been stuck inside.”

Zion first began making the towering sculptures in 2015 with a Kentucky Wildcat.

“I was just playing in the snow like everybody else,” Zion said. “Then I just wanted to see where it could take me so I started piling snow and I was like ‘What am I going to turn this into?’ I thought of a Wildcat so if formed into that.”

That was followed by Olaf from Frozen in 2016. Perhaps his most well-known piece was Mickey and Minnie Mouse in 2018 — a sculpture that helped him decide to attend college at USI.

Following the sculpture in 2018, USI Executive Director of Enrollment Rashad Smith invited Zion for a campus visit. Zion said he was hooked because of a high-quality art program, plus he could remain close to home.

Zion is majoring in art but is keeping his options open for exactly what he plans to do with his career.

“I’m just testing out all my mediums until I find what I really like working with,” he said.

As for his local snow creations in his mom’s front yard?

“We’re trying to send out good vibes.”

Zaneta said is proud of Zion and told him to always use his talents to help spread some cheer.

“Just bless the people, that’s what I always told him,” she said. “You’ve got great talent whether you earn money or just bless the people with it. Just to see people smile, just to see the kids want to take a picture, that’s what it’s all about.”

February 20, 2021 | 6:11 pm

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