Detroit Lakes had plenty to celebrate in 2021, with the return of many 2020 events that were canceled, postponed or downsized by COVID-19, coupled with new festivities planned to celebrate the city's 150th birthday, or Sesquicentennial.
But it wasn't just the ongoing pandemic that put the city's last Polar Fest celebration on ice: Ironically, it was subzero temperatures that curtailed many of the activities planned for last February. Because that Polar Fest all but fizzled, planning committee members decided that the 2022 festival would be super-sized, with the dual purpose of serving as the finale for the Detroit Lakes Sesquicentennial.
"It's going to run over three weekends," said Viva Lauinger, president of Propel DL, the group responsible for planning and organizing Polar Fest each year.
A full 17 days of frosty fun are planned, starting with the Friday, Feb. 11 unveiling of the new Polar Fest Ice Palace, which will be super-sized, as well.
"The 2022 palace will be 95 feet long by 24 feet deep and 31-to-32 feet high," says artist Hans Gilsdorf, the ice palace's principal designer. "The first one was 50-to-60 feet long — this one is way bigger."
Though some parts of the design are still being finalized, Gilsdorf said he expects the entire structure to need about 1,700 blocks of ice, which will be harvested directly from Little Detroit Lake, as they have been for previous incarnations of the ice palace project, which began in 2018.
"My designs are based on 17-inch (thick) ice," he said, adding that while the 2018 ice palace had blocks of ice that were 26 inches deep — and weighed 1,000 pounds each — the lake ice has been closer to 17-18 inches deep for the past couple of years.
The design of the palace will include space for six chambers, including a central tower that will reach a height of approximately 32 feet at its apex.
"There will be two fire cauldrons built inside the palace, each of them about 13 feet high," Gilsdorf added. "They'll be lit every night."
The lighting design will also include wall washers, similar to those used for the original palace, and King Isbit's throne will once again serve as the centerpiece of the structure.
"I have ice from all the past thrones that will be incorporated into the design for the 2022 one," Gilsdorf revealed, adding that he's stored the pieces, wrapped up in plastic, in anticipation of this year's event.
Also returning for this year's Polar Fest will be the Fandazzi Fire Circus, which was a big hit during the 2019 festival. The Twin Cities-based performers will present two shows on Saturday, Feb. 12, at 6 and 9 p.m.
Polar Fest mascots King Isbit and Polar Pete will be making their return, as well, along with the Frozen Fireworks, Poles & Holes Ice Fishing Derby, Polar Fest Plunge, Chocolate Fantasy (at the Becker County Museum), Kool Kites on the Lake and many other familiar events — though there is still room for more, Lauinger said, given that the festival has been extended this year.
"Anyone who is interested in being involved, or in planning a new Polar Fest event, is welcome," she said.