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DL Ice Harvest Committee rallies to generate local ice palace project after St. Paul plans fall through

When organizers behind the plans to build a "super-sized" ice palace for the 2018 St. Paul Winter Carnival announced a week ago that the project was kaput, the news was greeted in Detroit Lakes with more than a few gasps and groans of dismay.

That's because a committee of local volunteers had been working hard behind the scenes for more than a year on plans to harvest the ice of Detroit Lake itself —; as the principal source of building materials for the St. Paul structure.

In addition, the committee had been working on plans to create a local Ice Harvest Festival in conjunction with the project, including a smaller-scale ice palace to be built right here in Detroit Lakes' Peoples Park.

"St. Paul couldn't get it done," announced Ice Harvest Committee member Amy Stearns at a Friday meeting of about 30 of those volunteers involved in various aspects of the project.

At that point, the committee could have just shrugged their shoulders and called it quits — but instead, Friday's meeting was filled with brainstorming on how to proceed without St. Paul's involvement.

"We think we can still do this," Stearns said — and those present for Friday's meeting seemed to agree.

So the ice harvest on Detroit Lake will continue, albeit on a much smaller scale, and starting about a month later than originally planned.

"The ice harvest will take place in mid-January," said Scott Walz, another member of the Ice Harvest Committee who like Stearns, has been part of the project since its early planning stages.

Because only enough ice will be needed to build the Detroit Lakes structure — which is expected to be about 24 feet tall, 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, Walz said — it will most likely take no more than a day or two to complete, which makes the originally projected Dec. 15 start date impractical.

Also, because Detroit Lakes already has a major winter festival taking place in February of each year, the committee is now looking to include the creation of the ice palace as part of Polar Fest 2018 — with the unveiling to coincide with the official kickoff of Polar Fest on Thursday, Feb. 8.

Ice palace designer Hans Gilsdorf said on Friday that he is now looking to alter the original design of the Peoples Park structure slightly, to include more interactive features that will make it more family-friendly.

"We are REALLY excited that we can still bring something this fun and exciting to our community, even without St. Paul's involvement," said Walz on Tuesday. "And since we don't need to put all of the time and effort into getting 24,000 blocks of ice down to St. Paul, we can put more time and thought into making the palace and other snow and ice features in Peoples Park."

Though they will no longer require the large numbers of volunteers necessary to harvest the ice for St. Paul — only about 1,000 blocks will be needed for the local structure — "we will still need help," Walz added. "Anyone interested in being involved can contact us by email at icepalace2018@gmail.com."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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