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Detroit Lakes ice palace committee moving forward with plans even though 'St. Paul couldn't get it done'

The 1992 St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Palace on Harriet Island in St. Paul. Richard Marshall / St. Paul Pioneer Press

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — When organizers behind the plans to build a "super-sized" ice palace for the 2018 St. Paul Winter Carnival scuttled the project last week, the news was greeted in Detroit Lakes with more than a few gasps and groans of dismay.

That's because a committee of local volunteers had been working hard behind the scenes for more than a year on plans to harvest the ice from Detroit Lake as the principal source of building materials for the St. Paul structure.

The committee had also been working on plans to create a local Ice Harvest Festival in conjunction with the project, including a smaller-scale ice palace to be built in Detroit Lakes' Peoples Park.

"St. Paul couldn't get it done," Ice Harvest Committee member Amy Stearns told about 30 volunteers involved in various aspects of the project during a meeting Friday, Oct. 13.

The committee could have shrugged their shoulders and called it quits — "but that's not how we roll here in Detroit Lakes," Stearns added. "We don't just give up. ... We get stuff done."

The meeting shifted to brainstorming ideas on how to proceed without St. Paul's involvement.

"We think we can still do this," Stearns said.

So the ice harvest on Detroit Lake will continue, albeit on a much smaller scale, and starting about a month later than originally planned.

"The ice harvest will take place in mid-January," said Scott Walz, another member of the Ice Harvest Committee.

Because only enough ice will be needed to build the Detroit Lakes structure — which is expected to be about 24 feet tall, 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, Walz said — it will most likely take no more than a day or two to complete, which makes the originally Dec. 15 start date impractical. About 1,000 blocks of ice are needed to build the ice palace.

Detroit Lakes hosts a major winter festival each February, so the committee now wants to include the ice palace as part of Polar Fest 2018 — with the unveiling to coincide with the official kickoff of Polar Fest on Thursday, Feb. 8.

Ice palace designer Hans Gilsdorf said he is now looking to alter the original design of the Peoples Park structure slightly, to include more interactive features that will make it more family-friendly.

"We are really excited that we can still bring something this fun and exciting to our community, even without St. Paul's involvement," said Walz. "And since we don't need to put all of the time and effort into getting 24,000 blocks of ice down to St. Paul, we can put more time and thought into making the palace and other snow and ice features in Peoples Park."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454