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Editorial: Green Lake pride in ice castle building blocks

Carolyn Lange / Tribune Volunteers build the Spicer Ice Castle on Sunday morning at Saulsbury Beach on Green Lake.

Ice castles are built one huge block of ice at a time, cut from a frozen lake surface, raised dozens of feet high in honor of the cold north — a testament to the hardy Minnesotans and the Vikings of the past.

Ice castles are rising this month in a blue hue of the sun in the bitter cold air of January across Minnesota. One is located on Saulsbury Beach in Spicer highlighting the town's WinterFest activities and a second at Rice Park in St. Paul celebrating the city's Winter Carnival.

The centerpiece of both are the 573-pound blocks of pure bluish ice blocks from the Green Lake, the lake gem of Kandiyohi County.

The results are a 20-foot high Spicer WinterFest Ice Castle in Spicer and a 70-foot St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Castle.

The Wee Kut Ice Company's ice harvesting crew began Jan. 1 with the process of ice harvesting by clearing a two-acre section near the public boat access on North Shore Drive of Green Lake. Led by the company co-owners — Gideon Doty, Mike Lint and Bruce Nelson, the company started harvesting on Jan. 3 about 4,000 ice blocks for the St. Paul structure. The company later harvested about 550 ice blocks from Green Lake for the Spicer structure and the end of this week some 1,500 ice blocks from Little Detroit Lake for Detroit Lake's ice palace.

The ice crew of area and metro workers put their hearts and backs into a cold day's job for multiple days for these ice harvests.

Each block — 22-inches wide and 44-inches long — was cut from the lake surface, floated via open channels to a conveyor and lifted up to the lakeshore. Then they are loaded on pallets, which are then loaded onto semis to be trucked to St. Paul. The St. Paul project took 60 semi loads to transport the ice blocks for that structure.

The Wee Kut Ice Crew moved their equipment last weekend to the Saulsbury Beach area of Green Lake and began cutting ice blocks for the WinterFest Castle.

The construction process began Sunday in Spicer, drawing a steady flow of spectators to watch the ice castle slowly rise from the cold frozen ground of Saulsbury Beach. Each block of ice was lifted from the Green Lake surface, loaded into front-end loaders, then grasped by large ice tongs, hoisted into the air and lifted into place atop an ice wall.

Spectators can now view the ice castles in Spicer and St. Paul, both built with the clear, blue ice blocks of Green Lake.

Kudos to Green Lake, the Wee Kut Ice Company and the communities of Spicer and New London for their efforts in harvesting ice in a winter-tradition manner for these two projects of 2018. It is Wee Kut Ice's expert knowledge base and the communities' volunteer labor that make these projects possible.

The building of ice castles is not an easy task. These efforts take expertise, experience, labor, planning and adequate funding to complete. So ice castles — though Minnesota traditions — are not an every-year occurrence.

So Minnesotans are encouraged to get out outside and take in the beauty of these ice castles, especially the one right here on the beach in Spicer.

The Spicer Ice Castle's official lighting ceremony will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 20. WinterFest activities run through Feb. 11. For a complete schedule, view spicermn.com.

The St. Paul Ice Castle can be viewed Jan. 25-Feb. 10 at Rice Park in St. Paul.

So drive by Saulsbury Beach this weekend or in the coming weeks to get a view of the WInterFest Ice Castle, then go home, turn on the television and cheer the Vikings on to victory.

#GreenLake #IceCastles #SkolVikings

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