Polar Fest 2022: Blustery conditions don't deter MN Sn'Ice sculptors from their work

Ice sculpture artists Paul and Deneena Hughes brought their son Brett to Detroit Lakes on Thursday, Feb. 10, to complete an 8-foot-tall sculpture that will remain on display next to the MN Sn'Ice Palace throughout this year's Polar Fest celebration, which opens this weekend and concludes on Sunday, Feb. 27.

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Ice chips were flying off the chainsaw wielded by artist Brett Hughes as he helped his parents, Paul and Deneena, sculpt their 8-foot creation for this year's 'MN Sn'Ice Palace, Snow and Ice Showcase," which forms the centerpiece of Detroit Lakes' Polar Fest celebration, running through Feb. 27.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

The snowy, blustery winter weather did not deter artists with the MN Sn'Ice Palace, Snow and Ice Showcase from putting the finishing touches on their work Thursday afternoon, in anticipation of the Grand Lighting Ceremony set to kick off Detroit Lakes' Polar Fest celebration on Friday, Feb. 11.

Hans Gilsdorf and Eric Rotter were busy carving out snowflakes on the exterior of a series of about 20 signposts, made of ice, that would be used to display the works submitted for Polar Fest's first-ever poetry walk.

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Detroit Lakes ice sculptor Eric Rotter works on carving a snowflake design onto the side of an ice signpost that will be used for Polar Fest's first-ever poetry walk, on display at Detroit Lakes' City Park from Friday, Feb. 11 through Sunday, Feb. 27.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Organized by Kendra and Mary Beth Gilsdorf, the "Polar-try Poetry Walk" through Detroit Lakes' City Park includes poetry submitted by the public; Hans Gilsdorf said they had received roughly 50 submissions, with the final works chosen by a panel of local literary experts. It will remain on display throughout Polar Fest, which concludes on Sunday, Feb. 27.

While Gilsdorf and Rotter were working on the poetry walk signposts, a group of ice sculptors from the Twin Cities were busy working on an eight-foot-tall piece of artwork that will be one of two flanking King Isbit's Throne on the north side of the MN' Sn'Ice Palace.

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Ice sculptors Paul, right, and Deneena Hughes give their son Brett some tips on how to carve off a piece of ice from the top of their 8-foot-tall sculpture, "The Legend of Old Three Legs," which stands on the west side of King Isbit's throne on the north side of the MN Sn'Ice Palace. The palace and surrounding ice sculptures form the centerpiece of Detroit Lakes' Polar Fest celebration, which opens this weekend and runs through Sunday, Feb. 27.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Eden Prairie ice sculpture artists Paul and Deneena Hughes brought their son, Brett, up to Detroit Lakes to help them finish their ice sculpture, titled "The Legend of Old Three Legs."


Based on a local Becker County legend about a three-legged wolf, the sculpture was designed to consist of a large, full moon serving as the backdrop to a cluster of three wolves — one of them with three legs, of course.

"One of the wolves will be carved into the moon, while the other two will be standing in front of it," Paul Hughes explained.

Hughes and his wife recently competed in an ice sculpting competition held during the St. Paul Winter Carnival — which he credits with helping him learn how to carve "big ice."

"I've been doing it for about 34 years total," he said, adding that he's been involved with the St. Paul Winter Carnival for 26 of those years, including this year's event, where he and his wife Deneena took third place in the competition.

The ice sculpting team that took first place in the St. Paul event, John Cooper and John Njoes, were scheduled to arrive in Detroit Lakes on Friday, to carve the second sculpture that would be flanking Isbit's throne.

The two teams were expected to continue their work throughout Friday, wrapping up on Saturday or Sunday.

Meanwhile, at least one of the Polar Fest events scheduled for this weekend has been postponed. The Freeze Your Buns Run set for Saturday, Feb. 12 will now take place on Feb. 19 instead, per a Friday morning post on the festival's Facebook page.

Other events that are scheduled to take place over the weekend include two shows by the Fandazzi Fire Circus at the City Park Bandshell, at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, and the first of two Frozen Fireworks displays on Little Detroit Lake, set to take place at 7 p.m. Saturday (the other fireworks show is set for Feb. 26).


Sunday events will include Cool Kites on the Lake, also taking place on Little Detroit, which gets underway at noon, and the MinneSoda Hot Dish and Dessert Bar Challenge, which starts at 4 p.m. inside Grace Lutheran Church's fellowship hall.

Polar Fest continues through Feb. 27. A full schedule of events is available at , while all the MN Sn'Ice sculpting activities can be viewed via the live camera feed at .

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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