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Schedule of Ice Harvest & Palace Events
It all started when...
Detroit Lake was once known for its pure ice. About 50-60 years ago, ice harvesting was the second largest industry in Becker County, second only to timber and logging. The winter of 1970-71 was the last harvest.
In February of 2017, Detroit Lakes was contacted by the St. Paul Winter Carnival and asked to supply ice for potentially the world's largest ice palace that was to be built on the State Capitol grounds. After months of planning, the St. Paul cancelled their plans to build a palace, but up here in the "Bolder North", we were rolling with our plans and decided to build our own palace!
The 2018 Ice Harvest will occur on Little Detroit Lake, near the Pavilion on January 11 and 12. Construction of an Ice Palace will take place between the harvest date and February 8. The Opening Party and Grand Lighting of the Ice Palace is scheduled for February 8 as the kick-off to Polar Fest activities which run February 8 through 19.
Detroit Lakes' resident artist and sculptor, Hans Gilsdorf, will design the ice palace which is expected to be 24 feet tall, 30 feet wide by 60 feet deep. Each 2-foot by 4-foot block of ice weighs around 500 pounds. Approximately 1000-1500 blocks will be needed to complete the palace. Detroit Lakes has some of the best and most beautiful ice in the world and we look forward to seeing it sparkling in lights as a palace!
ICE HARVESTING HISTORY in DETROIT LAKES
- Large scale ice harvesting on Detroit Lake was started by John K West who came to the area from New York in 1881.
- In 1897 West began ice harvesting on Detroit Lakes.
- In 1903 Fargo-Detroit Ice Works was incorporated.
- By 1930 ice harvesting is the second largest industry in Becker County second only to timber and logging.
- Eventually, there were 2 companies Fargo-Detroit Ice Works and the Addison Miller Company.
- Fargo-Detroit Ice works later bought out the Addison Miller Company.
- It served many purposes locally from cooling household ice boxes and commercial users but its largest and longest lasting customer was the Northern Pacific Railroad.
- Ice was shipped as far away as Washington State and Texas.
- Ice harvest began in late December and went into January sometimes February. Weather dependent.
- In the peak years of harvesting, as much as 200,00 tons of ice was harvested and 4,000 boxcars were used for shipping ice to the western states.
- As many as 120 men worked on a single ice harvest in the beginning. At its peak, there were up to 180 employed men during harvest. Many of them farmers and construction workers needing extra winter income.
- Ice cakes that weren’t loaded were stored in Icehouses located where the current Holiday Inn is located.
- Ice was covered in saw dust to prevent it from melting.
- Shrinkage of the ice ranged from 10-20% depending on the amount of time stored.
- Harvesting was swift. If everything was running smoothly a boxcar could be filled in minutes.
- In 1951 20-25 people were employed during the summer at the Fargo-Detroit Company, and about 55-65 more were hired during harvest.
SO HOW DO YOU HARVEST ICE?
- Minimum thickness for ice to be harvested is 12" to begin the harvest.
- Snow must be scraped off the ice.
- Lake circular saws powered by Model A and Model T engines scored the ice filds into 22”x32” cakes that weighed about 400lbs a piece.
- “Ice sawdust” was packed into the cut to keep water from getting into the cut end and freezing.
- A “Float” was then cut, which was 10 cakes wide and 40 cakes long.
- Men with pike pole would guide the cakes into place near the tramway.
- A tramway then carried them from the lake where they were either loaded into boxcars or storage icehouses.
- Perfect cakes would pass a planer that made them all the same thickness and put grooves on the cakes to keep them from freezing together in the boxcars.
- On a good day 100-125 boxcars could be filled.
- Broken or “crippled” pieces were piled up to 30 feet high and could take up to July to melt.
Thank you to these amazing sponsors!
Foltz Buildings J&K Marina Midwest Bank Noah Insurance Steve Scheels
Dale Wilde Mann Financial Green's Plumbing/ Modern Heating
Thank you to these incredible in-kind sponsors!
Fairfield Inn & Suites