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The 2018 Detroit Lakes Ice Palace, remembered: Museum launching commemorative book at Dec. 8 author signing

Though copies of the new book, "Detroit Lakes Ice Palace 2018," are already available for pre-order via the Becker County Museum's website, the book won't officially be available until the book launch event set for this Saturday, Dec. 8 at 11 a.m. (Submitted photo)

There is no doubt that the 2018 Detroit Lakes Ice Harvest, and the subsequent construction of King Isbit's Ice Palace in preparation for the launch of February's Polar Fest celebration, was a huge hit with residents and visitors alike.

Thousands upon thousands of spectators packed the Detroit Lakes City Beach, where the palace was located, and the adjacent "Palatial Playground," which extended into the City Park, throughout January's ice harvest and palace construction and even after it was unveiled to kick off Polar Fest.

"I've never seen anything like it — especially not in February," said local photographer Lee Kensinger, who along with colleague Jack Davis, was tasked with documenting the historic events in photographs (and in Davis's case, drone video footage as well) on behalf of the Becker County Museum and Ice Harvest Steering Committee.

"It was bumper to bumper traffic," added Hans Gilsdorf, the Detroit Lakes artist who contributed the design for the ice palace itself, as well as helping to lead the construction crew.

Those photographs, along with thousands of others submitted by the public, formed the basis of a new commemorative book that is scheduled to be launched by the Becker County Museum this coming Saturday, Dec. 8.

Titled "Detroit Lakes Ice Palace 2018: By the Community, for the Community," the 136-page book includes photos chronicling the entire 2018 ice harvest — in some cases, placed side-by-side with historic images of ice harvests past, from the museum's archives — and ice palace construction, along with quotes from the people who made it happen, including ice palace designer Hans Gilsdorf.

The book also includes many photographs of the completed ice palace, which was lit from within each night, creating a visual feast of changing colors emanating from within the ice palace walls. It was also the focal point for the Frozen Fireworks that are a staple of the annual Polar Fest celebration.

The photographs and quotes were compiled by Becker County Museum Executive Director Becky Mitchell and her staff over the past few months, and the finished book, which is in perfect bound paperback form, will arrive at the museum toward the end of this week — just in time for Saturday's book signing, which will include Gilsdorf, Davis and Kensinger as well as Mitchell, who ended up contributing much of the narrative for the book. The book signing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, and will be held in conjunction with the museum's Family Day festivities. Those include a craft activity where participants can paint their own ceramic Christmas ornament, which will then be professionally glazed and kiln fired to preserve them for future holidays. Family Day takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; call the museum at 218-847-2938 for more information.

The book signing will also provide an opportunity for visitors to ask Gilsdorf, Kensinger, Davis and Mitchell about some of the events and photographs contained in the book.

Davis, who also worked on the ice palace construction crew, was able to obtain rare, behind-the-scenes images of the construction process.

"Lee did more of the 'artsy fartsy' stuff," he joked, noting that Kensinger often got up in the wee hours of the morning to capture images of the ice harvest, and the ice palace, at sunrise.

Kensinger also recalled getting up at 4 a.m. on the day the lighting on the ice palace was scheduled to be turned off for the last time, so he could get some photos of the lighting that were unobstructed by crowds.

"There are so many unusual angles (in these photographs) that the public otherwise would never have seen," Gilsdorf commented.

Those who are planning to attend the book signing will undoubtedly want to take advantage of the pre-order discount that the museum is offering through the end of this week: Any books that are ordered through the museum's new online ordering system at the website,, or by calling the museum at 218-847-2938 between now and Friday, Dec. 7 (regular museum hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday) will receive a $5 discount, and be charged just $29.99 per copy. Starting with Saturday's book signing, the cost will go up to its regular retail price of $34.99.

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