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Ready to celebrate winter: DL Ice Harvest Committee announces 3-year plan for ‘MN Sn’Ice’

A man in the winter on the street. The guy walks on the winter road. A young man down jacket is jumping in the snow.

OK, so with Detroit Lake recording one of its earliest "freeze-up" dates in years on Tuesday, local residents may not be quite ready to celebrate the joys of winter just yet.

In fact, with one of the lake's shortest seasons of open water on record, at just 195 days — about three weeks less than average, according to records kept by local resident Dick Hecock on behalf of the Pelican River Watershed District — some might even be thinking that winter has come about a month too early this year.

But on Monday night, the crowds gathered on the top floor of DL's Hub 41 restaurant would seem to belie that sentiment — because they were there to hear the plans for a possible sequel to the 2018 Ice Harvest on Little Detroit, and subsequent construction of King Isbit's Ice Palace on the Detroit Lakes City Beach, which dominated the local news this past January and February, and brought well over 18,000 visitors to the community to view the palace's construction, unveiling and lighting ceremony, and all of the activities subsequently centered around it during the community's annual Polar Fest celebration.

So, will there be another ice palace built in 2019?

"No," stated Ice Harvest Committee member Scott Walz, emphatically — but that doesn't mean they don't have "a lot of cool things planned" for continuing to celebrate "Minnesota Sn'Ice" — i.e., the icy, snowy wonders of a Minnesota winter.

In fact, he added, they have a three year plan that includes "making lots of things out of snow and ice" to kick off every Polar Fest celebration between now and 2021 — also known as the City of Detroit Lakes' 150th birthday, or sesquicentennial.

"To have a palace every year would be a burden... and get redundant," noted the ice palace's creator, artist Hans Gilsdorf. "But for the Sesquicentennial — we want to have one that's even bigger and better than before."

In 2019 and 2020, he added, even though there will be no ice palace, they're still going to have an ice harvest — it's just going to be on a smaller scale. The ice blocks will then be used to sculpt ice furniture and fire pits on the beach, like they did last year, and to launch an expanded version of their ice sculpture garden in the City Park.

"This year, we will have an ice sculpting competition," said committee member Eric Rotter, where teams of ice sculptors from the Twin Cities, as well as local artisans, will be given the opportunity to win cash prizes for their creations.

Also in the works for 2019-2020 is an expanded snow sculpture competition in the city park which will include not only Detroit Lakes High School art students, but also amateur sculptors from other area high schools like Frazee-Vergas, Lake Park-Audubon, and beyond.

King Isbit's throne will also be returning, Gilsdorf noted, and there will be more recreational opportunities like last year's sledding hill as well.

But to do everything they have planned for the next three years, both volunteers and sponsors will be needed — in large numbers. Those interested in getting involved should contact Carrie Johnston at the Chamber of Commerce, 218-847-9202 or carrie@visitdetroitlakes.com. Updates will also be posted on the Polar Fest website, www.polarfestdl.com/iceharvest, as well as the "Ice Harvest DL" page on Facebook.

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
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