BEMIDJI, Minn. -- While many northerners simply get excited to finally have their ice houses up again once winter rolls around, a small group of friends headed out to the lake recently with a different plan in mind. They grabbed a chainsaw, a trolling motor and some planks of wood and then got to work.
They were going to build an ice carousel.
They worked from around 9:30 a.m. to just after 1 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 19. And, by the time they were done, they had what could be described as a large, spinning disk of ice in the middle of the frozen surface of Long Lake, just northeast of Bemidji.
“The goal is to have a party,” Ron Erickson said. “This is the stage for the party.”
To create the carousel, they attached a chainsaw to a wooden plank that was anchored at the other end to the center of the circle. As they walked the saw around, they cut a circle into the lake's frozen surface.
They then adjusted the saw and repeated the process, making a slightly smaller circle inside the larger circle. They removed the ice in between the two cuts, resulting in several inches of water between the floating disk and the rest of the ice in the lake.
But they weren’t done yet. They fixed a trolling motor into the circle of ice and turned it on. And then, the carousel began to spin slowly.
The diameter of the spinning section of ice is 40 feet across. While others have built ice carousels much larger -- hundreds of feet across, in fact -- the local group of friends don’t necessarily feel the need to break that record.
“Given our advancing age, doing the same thing the next year is already an adventure,” Chuck Meyers said as the rest of the group laughed.
They threw a rather sad-looking Christmas tree onto the center of the carousel to add a little festive spirit. They were planning to decorate the carousel with lights.
This is not the first time the friends have done the project. The first year they tried, it worked. The second year it didn’t. Rather, it cracked when they were in the process of getting it to spin. This year, however, they are back in business with a functional carousel.
Regardless of how hardy northerners claim to be, the ice carousel is still not always the most practical place to entertain a group of guests. Even though they didn’t get the carousel moving the second year, they decided to celebrate the attempt with a New Years toast.
“The second year when we didn’t get it moving, it was 40 below,” Meyers said. “We poured the champagne in a glass, and it immediately turned to slush.”
The concept of an ice carousel isn’t new. Ron Vroom heard about ice carousels from a Finnish student. Sometime later, the friends were sitting around when they began watching a video about the process on one of their phones. Before long, one of them proclaimed to the others that they could do something like that.
“We didn’t know what we were doing at all; we just kind of figured out how to do this. And it worked. We got it to go around in a circle. And, we were just thrilled to death,” Erickson said.