BETHEL — Tuesday will mark 20 years since the completion of “Angus, King of the Mountain,” the world’s tallest snowman at that time.

The idea that led to the giant frozen figure named after then-Gov. Angus King began in the fall of 1998. Members of the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce were brainstorming ways to attract more tourists. Paula Wheeler of Bethel suggested the town should try to break the record for the world’s tallest snowman, 96 feet, held by a group in Japan.

The next step was finding someone to head up the construction. Although he was not at the meeting, engineer Jim Sysko of Newry was volunteered to head the project. Days later, he heard he had been chosen to build “Angus.”

“To think that I could be involved in the tallest snowman in the world was just something I would not want to miss,” he said.

His official title was project manager.

Sysko quickly realized he was going to need a lot of help if the record was going to be broken.


Al Bancroft, head of Bancroft Contracting Corp. of South Paris, agreed to use a clam shell bucket crane and provide highway signs to use as forms to hold the snow.

“We made a big circular form of these highway signs, all screwed together, and built it up 4 feet high,” Sysko said.

From there, they packed snow inside the form until it was shaped, adding successive smaller layers. Sysko described it as looking like a “big layer cake.”

Sysko still needed many volunteers for the project, so a girl working on the project hung a sheet over the side of the snowman that said “we need help.” The idea worked. People driving up the Parkway to the Bethel Station lot stopped and helped, many of them from outside the area.

Another obstacle was the lack of snow that winter.

The Army Corps of Engineers ultimately trucked it from the Sunday River ski area and town plow drivers brought in loads cleaned off streets and roads.


“It was a bad snow year, we had to scratch for snow, that’s why he was kind of thin,” Sysko said.

Angus’s diameter was 80 feet.

His features included: 4-foot wreaths for eyes; six feet of chicken wire and muslin for the nose; five automobile tires for the mouth; a 20-foot fleece hat; a 120-foot fleece scarf; three skidder tires for buttons; and 20-foot evergreen trees for arms. It took 2 million cubic feet of snow. Angus weighed 9 million pounds.

After it was completed, Sysko got a call from Guinness World Records to confirm the height at 113 feet, 7 inches.

The chamber’s plan to lure tourists worked. In addition to the many visitors, ABC’s “Good Morning America” opened its show with a shot of Angus being hit by sunlight for the first time. The Gould Academy band in Bethel played “Frosty the Snowman” as the opening was being filmed.

News and photos of the snowman spread through media across the world.


And the governor himself came to speak after his namesake was finished.

The snowman’s name was chosen through a competition held on radio station WBLM, according to Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the chamber at the time. Originally it was “King of the Mountain,” but King asked that his first name be added.

The snowman dominated the landscape into the spring, but by August it was completely melted, Sysko said.

Constructing Angus led to many other opportunities for Sysko. He built a maze, a volcano, an ice tower and the record-breaking “Olympia Snowwoman,” which surpassed the 1999 record by 9 feet in 2008. It was named for U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe.

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