Roughly 50-60 years ago, Detroit Lake was known for the purest of ice. In fact, ice harvesting was the second largest industry in Becker County, second only to timber and logging, with the winter of 70-71 as the last harvest. Since then, ice harvesting has remained a topic in local museums and historical guides, but now - as we enter into 2018 - ice harvesting is back on Detroit Lake!
This year marks another Polar Fest in Detroit Lakes; a true celebration of winter with activities including a Polar Plunge, Freeze Your Buns Run, Daddy's Little Sweetheart Dance, Ice Tee Golf, Great Polar Race, Polarpalooza Tubing Night, the appearance of polar explorer (and MN native) Ann Bancroft! and so much more. And yet, this year proves to be a celebration of something far bigger than winter... it is a true celebration of community.
With the announcement of St. Paul not bringing back their famed giant ice palace this year, the community of volunteers in and around Detroit Lakes have rallied to bring the first ever Ice Palace to the community - certainly a huge addition to Polar Fest. So huge, in fact, that it is expected to be 24 feet tall, 30 feet wide, and 60 feet deep. But the size of the palace may very well be outsized by the oversized heart of the all-volunteer-team dedicating their time to make this a frosty and fantastic reality.
"The city of Detroit Lakes is a wonderful place to live. The city, as well as the county, have been great and supportive of our efforts. It's an incredible Minnesota thing, volunteering together to embrace winter and create something that's never been done in our community and perhaps Becker County. Something fun for the community, from the community," says Hans Gilsdorf, Detroit Lakes resident artist and sculptor in charge of the palace design and construction coordination.
Gilsdorf says he jumped at the chance to participate, citing that he has been, "quickly learning, asking a lot of questions, researching, reaching out to those who have built palaces before, meeting great people along the way, and forming a talented group of artisans and construction people who are willing, same as I, to make something incredibly special and unique for our community."
A community once rich with ice harvesting history, this year's Polar Fest will bring that lost art back front and center, educating festival goers while providing countless activities to make family memories forever.