The condition of the ice on Little Detroit Lake posed a challenge for local ice fishermen this past week — as well as for the volunteer crew charged with harvesting ice cakes for the creation of King Isbit's Royal Courtyard and Playground for Polar Fest 2020.
"We were lucky to have the ice that we did," said Ice Harvest DL Committee member Scott Walz, who noted that they were able to successfully remove more than 1,000 cakes from the ice harvesting field Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 7-8.
Walz added that it was the hard work the ice harvesting crew had done in the weeks prior to the harvest that made it successful, by continuously removing heavy loads of snow from the 250-by-200-foot ice field across from the DL Pavilion.
The conditions were challenging nonetheless, Walz added, as they had to contend with unusually wet, slushy conditions — plus the occasional alarming crack in the ice when they had all their heavy equipment moving around the harvesting area.
He said that the success of the two-day harvest was also due to the size of the crew; ice harvest volunteer coordinator Becky Mitchell said that more than 30 people showed up to help with this year's harvest, though not all of them were able to be there for both days.
Though there won't be another full-scale ice palace built until 2021, when the MN Sn'Ice crew is gearing up to present a larger than ever snow and ice showcase in honor of Detroit Lakes' 150th birthday, Walz said that King Isbit would be getting a much larger throne and courtyard this year than last.
For comparison, he said that volunteer crews harvested more than 1,500 blocks of ice for the ice palace in 2018, while last year the ice throne and courtyard used just over 300 blocks, which means that this year's showcase will be somewhere in the middle.
"We do have a few surprises up our sleeves," promised Hans Gilsdorf, the artistic designer for the MN Sn'Ice Snow and Ice Showcase, which will form the focal point of Detroit Lakes' annual Polar Fest celebration, Feb. 6-19.
King Isbit's Royal Courtyard and Palatial Playground, plus the rest of the MN Sn'Ice showcase, will be unveiled at a grand lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6.
Gilsdorf said that this year's throne will be surrounded by several other large ice structures, including two towers and an ice bridge which is intended to make the courtyard and throne more handicap accessible as well as providing added aesthetics.
The intent, he said, is to create the illusion of being inside King Isbit's royal palace.
There will also be several other snow sculptures scattered around Isbit's Palatial Playground,. including some created by area high school students in a snow sculpting contest set for Feb. 10; others created by MN Sn'Ice sponsoring businesses in a sponsors' challenge (the details of which are still being finalized); and others created by professional sculptors brought in just for the event.
In addition, there will once again be a sledding hill set up in the City Park, to be open throughout the Polar Fest celebration. For more information, including how to get involved and a full calendar of events, visit the website at iceharvestdl.org or check out the Ice Harvest DL page on Facebook.