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DL's Polar Fest kicks off with 'cool' light show Thursday night

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Red, purple, blue, and green, the palace lit up for all to see. Meagan Pittelko / Tribune2 / 4
King Isbit was the life of the party, with plenty of swag for sale. Meagan Pittelko / Tribune3 / 4
Well documented, attendees were sure to freeze the cool moment in their phones. Meagan Pittelko / Tribune4 / 4

Folks showed up in droves for Polar Fest's kick off Thursday evening, despite sub-zero temps.

Kiddos and other community members wandered through the ice sculpture garden and slid down a tubing hill next to the Detroit Lakes Pavilion. Then, they went inside the building for a little walk through ice harvest history.

One community member jokingly remarked that the coolest part of the event was "the weather," but the 30 foot-tall ice palace on the beach was quite a sight to see, particularly after it was lit in the first-light ceremony at 7 p.m.

One Otter Tail resident said he had driven over with some friends for the event just for "something to do on a Thursday night." They, along with so many others, stayed cozy in Lakeside, grabbing a bite and a beverage before the festivities began.

Another long-time Detroit Lakes resident remarked that the event was probably "the coolest thing he'd seen," since he's lived here.

Everyone seemed to be in good spirits as hundreds from all over the area huddled around to watch the palace light up red, green, blue, and purple, while songs like Vanilla Ice's "Ice, Ice, Baby" and Foreigner's "You're as cold as ice" blasted over loud speakers on DL's beach.

The evening proved particularly special for one Frazee girl, Lillian Adams, who was celebrating her eleventh birthday at the event with some of her closest friends.

Adams said being at the event with her friends and getting to see all of the sculptures—and the palace, of course—is something she will never forget.

Other kids posed for pictures on King Isbit's throne and climbed along the palace. Some people warmed themselves by large fires, which were surrounded by ice, built on either side of the palace.

"We should all feel very blessed in this community," said Ice Harvest Committee member Scott Walz before the lighting ceremony. "Everything about this palace has been by the community for the community. Everything that needed to get done, there was always somebody to step up to help....this has been amazing. Thank you to everybody in this community."

The community gathered, and the community gained. Eateries like the new Hub 41 and Lakeside benefited greatly from the increased visitors.

Lakeside Brewery created their own winter shandy, which they debuted during happy hour, and the bar filled to standing room only.

Several of the bartenders noted that the whole festival has been great for business, even more so than just regular, old ice fishing season.

The area cleared out pretty quickly after the ceremony. The Pavillion was closed up immediately following, and most people opted to head home and get warm. But the event was just the beginning. Thursday marked the kick-off of a ten-day festival, which is sure to keep the cool vibes coming.