SPICER, Minn. (KMSP) - About two hours west of the metro on Green Lake in the town of Spicer, ice harvesting conditions are ideal.
“The clarity and the blueness that comes out of this lake...they've used it for years," said Mike Gutknecht with Park Construction.
Blocks of ice measuring 22 inches by 44 inches will be the first of about 3,700 used to build the St. Paul Winter Carnival’s Ice Palace. Park Construction serves as the general contractor for the project.
“The most challenging part is timing; 18th is deadline for us,” Gutknecht said. “Then they have two days for electricians to wire, then we are ready for Moon Glow Parade on the 22nd."
It all begins by dividing a corner of the lake into a grid. The 16-inch-thick blocks are cut, and a channel is created to get them to shore. The work continues on land in Rice Park where a cement slab will be put in place to support the weight.
“The thickness is really important for the amount of weight each block is going to hold,” Gutknecht said. “573 lbs per block, stack them up 70 feet tall... it all adds up. “
For many, the work and tradition is well worth it. The history of the first ice castles in North America dates back to 1885 when St. Paul leaders quickly decided to build an ice palace following a smallpox outbreak in Montreal. It's no surprise tourists and locals loved it.
“This is Minnesota. This is what we live for, this is why we live here,” Gutknecht said.
Over the years, volunteers, sponsors and the community have helped make various size and designs of ice castles possible. This time around with the extended 17-day carnival connecting with Super Bowl activities, the expectations are sky-high.
“This is something unique and fun,” Gutknecht said. “This is one thing we wanted to be a part of.”
It's possible to still sponsor a block of ice starting at $25. Click here for more information.