Twice the ice, twice as nice: Detroit Lakes' 150th birthday ice palace will be double the size of any before

Barricades are going up on Little Detroit Lake this week in anticipation of the ice harvest that will launch construction of Detroit Lakes' 2022 Polar Fest Ice Palace, starting Thursday, Jan. 20. The ice palace will be the city's largest to date, containing roughly 2,000 blocks of ice harvested directly from the lake. Polar Fest will officially begin Thursday, Feb. 11 and conclude Sunday,. Feb. 27. The super-sized winter festival marks the culmination of the community's 150th birthday celebration.

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The Frozen Fireworks, like these seen here in this photo from 2019, are expected to make a comeback at the 2022 Polar Fest celebration after a one-year absence. There will be two fireworks displays, on Feb. 12 and 26, as part of this year's super-sized winter festival, which will mark the end of Detroit Lakes' Sesquicentennial (150th birthday) celebrations. (Jim Sinclair / Special to the Tribune / 2019 Tribune File Photo)

Save the date: Thursday, Jan. 20 will mark the official beginning of construction for the 2022 Polar Fest Ice Palace in Detroit Lakes.

The palace, which is the city's largest and most ambitious such undertaking to date, will be unveiled on the official opening night of Polar Fest on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m.

"To give you some idea, we harvested about 1,000 blocks of ice for the first Polar Fest Ice Palace back in 2018," said Hans Gilsdorf, principal designer for the annual winter spectacle. "For this one, we will be harvesting nearly 2,000 (blocks)."

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The Wee Kut Ice Co. will once again be bringing its special ice cutting equipment from Spicer, Minn., all the way to Detroit Lakes for this year's ice harvest on Little Detroit. The Wee Cut crew has been a part of the annual ice harvest since 2018, but their job will be bigger than ever, as just under 2,000 blocks of ice will be harvested from Little Detroit Lake on Jan. 20-22. The Polar Fest Ice Palace, which will begin construction that same weekend, is planned to measure roughly 4,000 square feet (100 feet long by 40 feet wide) and stand 35 feet high at the central tower — the largest such ice sculpture built in Detroit Lakes to date. (Lee Kensinger / Special to the Tribune)


And while the height of the palace's central tower will be nearly identical to the 2018 structure, at 32 feet, it will cover much more ground space — about 4,000 square feet in all.

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A preliminary sketch of the 2022 Polar Fest Ice Palace by artist Hans Gilsdorf shows the basic layout for the structure, which will measure nearly 100 feet long by 35-40 feet deep and approximately 32 feet high — the city's largest such structure to date. The 2022 Polar Fest celebration, set for Feb. 11-27, will cap the city's 150th birthday festivities. (Hans Gilsdorf / Special to the Tribune)

"The design of the central tower will be a near-replica of the 2018 palace," Gilsdorf added. "We just made it a little bigger."

The entire structure will measure close to 100 feet long and 36 to 40 feet wide (the width may vary a bit in spots). "It's about double" the size of the original, he said.

Some of the additions will include two 14-foot-tall fire cauldrons, to be fueled by propane gas, located inside the palace structure on either side of the central tower; and two "DL 150" ice sculptures, one located on each side of King Isbit's Throne. The multi-colored lights will also be located inside the palace, meaning they will be viewable from all four sides of the structure.

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The Frozen Fireworks — in super-sized form — will be returning to Detroit Lakes for its annual Polar Fest celebration, Feb. 11-27. There will be fireworks displays on both Feb. 12th and 26th this year. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)


There will also be a media desk, sculpted from ice, that people can use for making podcasts or other social media posts as well as live broadcasts for regional TV news outlets. The desk will be similar to the first one, constructed in 2019, Gilsdorf added.


Another new feature of King Isbit's Royal Playground will be an ice maze in the city park, designed and constructed by "MN Sn'Ice" committee members Jack Davis and Lance Akers. The ice maze will replace the sledding hill this year, Gilsdorf said, because the committee wanted to try something new — and a little easier to maintain.

"The ice maze will be lit up, too," said MN Sn'Ice committee member Carrie Johnston.

The courtyard and playground area will include a variety of other snow and ice sculptures, as well, including some constructed by local high school students — in a competition set for Feb. 16 — and others by professional ice sculptors from the Twin Cities, who will be making the trip up to Detroit Lakes for a competition set to take place Feb. 10-13.

One more addition to all the snow and ice sculptures will be a special presentation of the #OnlyInMN monument by Explore Minnesota, hosted by the MN Sn'Ice committee.

"It's a 40-foot monument," said Johnston, adding that it would be displayed near the ice palace. "It travels all around Minnesota, though this will be the first time it's in Detroit Lakes."


The Fandazzi Fire Circus , which was a big hit during the 2019 festival, will be returning for a second time, Johnston said. The Twin Cities-based performers will present two shows on Saturday, Feb. 12, at 6 and 9 p.m. This year's performances will both take place at the City Park Bandshell, with the fireworks display set to take place in-between, at 7 p.m. on the City Beach.

The Twin Cities-based Fandazzi Fire Circus will be returning to Detroit Lakes for its 2022 Polar Fest celebration on Saturday, Feb. 12. Two shows are planned, at 6 and 9 p.m. in the Detroit Lakes City Park. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune) free

Another event returning this year is the Becker County Museum's exhibit on the Becker County ice harvesting industry, which will open at the Pavilion on Jan. 20-21 and be open each weekend of Polar Fest.

Lanterns will be placed around the ice field during the harvesting process, Johnston said, noting that there would be a total of 15 lanterns lit each night — "one for each decade" of Detroit Lakes' 150-year history.

For more information, visit the website, or check out their Facebook page for updates.

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