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The return of King Isbit: Construction of a massive, icy throne, courtyard and ‘Palatial Playground’ gets underway this week

This painting of the legendary character, King Isbit, was created by Detroit Lakes artist Hans Gilsdorf. Isbit's return to Detroit Lakes is slated to coincide with the opening of the community's annual Polar Fest celebration, which runs Feb. 7-18. (Submitted photo)1 / 3
This sketch by artist Hans Gilsdorf shows the proposed design for King Isbit's ice throne, which will be part of the 2019 Royal Courtyard and Palatial Playground. Construction on the 15x30 foot structure is slated to begin this week. (Submitted photo)2 / 3
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A year ago this month, the Legend of King Isbit was born, introducing the royal resident of Detroit Lakes' 2018 Ice Palace to the public for the first time.

Isbit will be making his royal return to the community in February, and to celebrate, the Detroit Lakes Ice Harvest Steering Committee is gearing up to present "MN Sn'Ice: A Minnesota Snow and Ice Showcase," starting on Thursday, Feb. 7 and continuing through the end of the community's 2019 Polar Fest celebration on Feb. 18.

"We had a small ice harvest this past week," said Ice Harvest Committee member Becky Mitchell. "We had 15 volunteers on hand to harvest 300 blocks of ice, each weighing 600 pounds and measuring 22x44x13 inches thick."

Those ice blocks will be used to create a Royal Courtyard — including a massive, 15x30 foot ice throne for Isbit — and a Palatial Playground featuring furniture and fire pits crafted from ice, along with many more chilly creations for the public to enjoy, are slated to begin construction this week.

"The Royal Courtyard will be on the City Beach, right about where Isbit's Ice Palace was last year," said Tiffiny Walz, another member of the Ice Harvest Committee. "It will be beautifully lit up, and the sledding hill will be back in the City Park, along with some tunnels for the kids to play in and some other fun events."

Some of those events will include an ice carving competition, featuring some of the region's best ice carving artists, and a snow sculpture competition pitting teams of art students from area high schools against each other.

The grand lighting ceremony for the Royal Courtyard and Palatial Playground is slated for the opening day of Polar Fest, Thursday, Feb. 7, while the ice carving competition will take place on Feb. 8-9 and the snow sculpture competition is set for Feb. 13. All of the sculptures will be constructed in the City Park, which will become part of the expanded Palatial Playground.

"We're also working on a scavenger hunt to be held there," said Mitchell. "It will feature some of King Isbit's personal belongings and other related items, which Absolute Ice will freeze into ice blocks that will be scattered throughout the park for people to find.

"The Becker County Museum (of which Mitchell is the director) will also have a trailer set up near the Pavilion and Royal Courtyard, with exhibits inside featuring 'Winter Fun' — vintage skis, ice skates, ice fishing and ice harvesting gear," she added. "We're still looking for exhibit items, so if you have some things that you would like to contribute, please contact the museum at 218-847-2938."

"And we will have a coloring competition for area elementary students," Walz said.

There is plenty of time left to sign up for the coloring, ice carving and snow sculpting competitions, Walz added — and they are also in need of quite a few more volunteers to act as "Royal Guards" during the festivities.

Like last year's "Palace Protectors," the Royal Guards will be asked to keep an eye on all of the ice and snow sculptures, but also to answer questions, direct visitors to the various events happening during Polar Fest, help take photographs, and otherwise interact with the public throughout the 10 days of the festival.

For more information, including a full calendar of events and more details about the various snow and ice-related events, please visit the website, www.iceharvestdl.org or visit them on Facebook. Information on volunteering can also be found on the website, or you can contact Mitchell or Walz directly, at 218-847-2938 or 218-234-1490, respectively.

An online webcam to follow the progress of construction on Isbit's throne and the rest of the Royal Courtyard and Palatial Playground is also slated to go live sometime this week, Mitchell added; check the website and Facebook page for the link as well as updates on the construction as it unfolds.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 18-plus years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Detroit Lakes School Board. 

(218) 844-1454