Starting this week and continuing through mid-February, the Detroit Lakes City Beach near the Pavilion will be one of the busiest places in town.
Volunteers with the 2020 Minnesota Sn'Ice Snow & Ice Showcase have begun laying the ice blocks and wiring for King Isbit's Royal Courtyard and Palatial Playground, which will be unveiled in a Grand Lighting Ceremony set to kick off this year's Polar Fest celebration at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6.
Roughly 1,000 ice cakes each measuring 22-by-44 inches, were cut from the ice of Little Detroit Lake Jan. 6-7. This Monday, Jan. 20, the cakes were cut to a uniform thickness of 15 inches, using a special cutter designed just for the MN Sn'Ice project by Accessories Unlimited of Detroit Lakes.
Travis Ballard, co-owner of Accessories Unlimited, said that this cutter is the third specialized tool created by Accessories Unlimited for the MN Sn'Ice ice harvest and construction project since it was started in 2018.
"It's a type of shape saw designed for planing the ice blocks so they're more true and easier to stack," Ballard explained, adding that its hydraulics are powered by a Bobcat engine.
He said they spent a couple of weeks testing it prior to bringing it out to the ice palace construction site for the first time Monday afternoon.
"So far it's turning out really good," Ballard said of the new saw, adding that they were going to stay on site Monday until all the issues with the operation of the saw had been worked out with the volunteer crew so they could complete the process on their own.
The first piece of equipment they designed for the inaugural Detroit Lakes Ice Harvest in 2018 were a large pair of customized ice tongs that could be operated with a crane to lift the ice out of the lake once it had been cut.
"We've kept in constant contact with them (the Ice Harvest DL Committee) to provide them with whatever they needed to assist with the harvest and the construction of the ice palace," Ballard said.
"Last year we built a saw to cut the blocks out of the lake," he added. "We've been test driving it for them this year, and it's getting really close to being ready."
The second saw should be fully operational for the 2021 ice harvest, which will be the biggest to date, as there will be another full-scale ice palace built next year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the City of Detroit Lakes.
Hans Gilsdorf, the principal designer for the MN Sn'Ice project since its inception, said that while this year's showcase will not include a full-size ice palace, King Isbit's courtyard will be much larger than last year, when about 300 ice cakes were harvested to create the royal throne and surrounding structures.
Besides the throne itself, this year's Royal Courtyard will include a 60-foot wall immediately behind the throne, two large ice towers, and a bridge over a "river" of ice leading up to the throne. The ice furniture and fire pits (also encased in ice) that were a part of last year's project will also be included in the 2020 version, Gilsdorf added.
In addition, eight history panels will be embedded in the ice structures, telling the story of the 2018 ice harvest as well as Detroit Lakes' history as a town where ice was a major export right up until the middle of the 20th century, when refrigerators replaced iceboxes in most homes and businesses across the country.
"Everything will be lighted," Gilsdorf added, noting that Jack Davis has been the mastermind behind the lighting design for each year's ice structures.
Davis said that he has been working on the lighting design for Isbit's 2020 Royal Courtyard for "about four months now."
"Some of the lights will be embedded in the ice, some will be flood lights, and some will be wall washers," he explained. "There's a lot more going on this year."
In fact, Davis actually created a Lego model of the courtyard, for planning purposes, though it has also become a promotional tool for this year's MN Sn'Ice project.
Gilsdorf said that this year's lighting design is intended to be a mix of the techniques they have learned from the first two years of the project, along with a few new twists that will be unveiled on the night of the Grand Lighting ceremony.
"This year the light show will be a lot bigger and more dynamic," he said. "It's going to be spectacular. I'm really excited to see it."
Introducing: The Sn'Icecast Media Desk
One new twist to this year's courtyard was unveiled earlier this week: The Sn’Icecast Media Desk. Local news and social media, schools, businesses and individuals are invited to reserve a time to broadcast from the desk, which is entirely made of ice.
The Sn'Icecast desk will be ready for use starting Monday, Jan. 27 — but those planning to use it must reserve a time by contacting Carrie Johnston at the Chamber office, 218-847-9202. Broadcast times are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Fandazzi Fire Circus to be featured Feb. 8
The MN Sn’Ice Committee is excited to announce the addition of Minnesota's own Fandazzi Fire Circus, a professional fire performance group, to this year's Polar Fest events calendar.
The Fandazzi Fire Circus has extensive performance experience and provides thrilling fire acts suitable for all ages, according to a news release. They are the only fire group to hold multiple Guinness World Records, and they were also named the best stage act at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.
They will be in Detroit Lakes on Saturday, Feb. 8, for two performances at 7 and 9 p.m. on the Detroit Lakes City Beach.