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Lighting up the New Year

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Every year Dayton and Michelle Kornkven celebrate the holidays in a big way. Glass and crystal ornaments in all shapes, colors and sizes shimmer throughout their home from the collection they have amassed over the span of 40 years.  

With approximately 10 Christmas trees beautifully decorated, using well over 2,000 total ornaments in various rooms and spaces, there is no lack of Christmas cheer in their household.

The elaborate decorations extend out into their yard as well.

This year, the Kornkvens are expanding the holiday season decor by placing 140 ice luminaries in various places along their driveway and throughout their yard.

The couple made the luminaries themselves by filling five-gallon buckets with water and leaving them out in the subzero temperatures to freeze.

“When it was really, really cold that was the opportune time to do it,” Dayton said. “We could turn out 30 some at a time.”

It took approximately 11 hours for one bucket of water to freeze entirely through and, Dayton added, as the temperature rose the last batches they made took 48 hours to get the same effect as when the temperature was below zero.

The Kornkvens had an average of 30 to 33 buckets freezing at a time, in varying shapes and sizes.

Next, they moved the buckets into their heated garage in order for them to thaw out just enough to slip the ice block out of the bucket.

When the buckets are sitting outside in the elements, the water at the top of the bucket freezes thicker than the bottom, Dayton explained. He tipped the block upside down so the thicker portion was on the bottom and the thinner portion was at the top. Previously, he used a hammer to tap out the space but the ice was too delicate and some of the blocks would end up broken, so he started using a saw to drill out a hole and create a space to hold the candles.

Originally, the Kornkvens tried to execute a similar idea which they had gotten from Michelle’s sister.

“Her sister had done them years and years and years ago using balloons and she put them in her freezer,” Dayton said. “We tried it and I filled these balloons up with water and I carefully put them out in the snow and by the time I came back with another balloon that one was busted and the water was all over because it couldn’t stand the expansion of the freezing process. The balloons couldn’t take it.”

Then Michelle saw the idea of making ice luminaries using buckets in a Christmas cookbook she had found one day while standing in the grocery line.

The Kornkvens moved to their home in Park Rapids permanently in 2013 from Grafton, N.D. where they used to make luminaries but not to the extent that they did this year. Dayton explained that the most luminaries he had ever made prior to this year was around 60.

It was not planned to make 140, but according to Dayton, the weather was so cooperative that he felt he could not stop.

“It’s miserable, but it’s perfect,” Michelle said regarding the ideal weather for creating the luminaries.

“If you have a mild winter you can’t do it,” Michelle said, explaining further that the blocks need consistently cold weather to freeze all the way through and stay frozen while they are lit.

On Christmas Eve they lit the luminaries, which they had lined up along their extensive driveway and property on U.S. Highway 71 north, letting them glow throughout the night and into the early hours of Christmas morning.

“When it’s very cold they’ll go a long time,” Michelle said about the wax melting slower during colder temperatures, making the candles able to burn longer.

The Kornkvens attempted to re-light the luminaries on Christmas Day but due to the freezing rain and windy weather, the candles refused to stay lit.

“It takes a lot of candles, I bought out everything that Walmart had,” Dayton said.

“You never know when it’s going to be a good year so you don’t really plan ahead,” Michelle added about struggling to find candles. “Next year we’re just going to get a bunch and have them on hand.”

“I don’t recommend putting them on a wood surface,” Dayton advised. “I also used some candles that were scented and I think they burned hotter. When they got down to the bottom they burned a hole through the bottom of the luminary.”

The Kornkvens plan to light the luminaries one last time for New Year’s.

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