Reporting Mike Binkley
SPICER, Minn. (WCCO) — For a small town of little more than a thousand people, Spicer can make big things happen in the winter.
If it’s cold enough — as it has been this year — icy chunks of Green Lake can be carved up and stacked high along the city’s south beach, for its WinterFest celebration.
“I’ve traveled the whole state and it’s amazing how many people talk about the ice castle in Spicer,” said Mayor Denny Baker.
Over the past 27 years, the castles along the shore have been tall and regal, wide and colorful, in large part because of three guys who have the will and the equipment.
Gideon Doty, Mike Lint and Bruce Nelson are long-time friends who don’t mind getting cold, wet and worn out this time of year.
They call their company Wee Kut Ice, and they slice up the ice with a variety of saws.
“It’s just like a cement block except that it’s cold,” said Doty. “But basically it’s the same as a cement block. You can cut it and do whatever you want with it.”
“These blocks probably weigh about 600 pounds, 700 pounds,” Lint said.
They’ve been doing this since the 1980s, after Doty was inspired by the 1986 ice palace in St. Paul.
“I went down to see that and then I told the boys back here, I said ‘well I got all that equipment. My uncle still has it out in the woods.’ So we went and grabbed it and that was our first castle was ’87, we built one.”
By the way, the blizzard of 1991 ruined the ice on Twin Cities lakes, so the Winter Carnival turned to the guys from Wee Kut Ice.
They harvested 22,000 blocks from Green Lake to build the 1992 palace, more than 100 miles away in St. Paul.
The men in Gideon Doty’s family became experts on lake ice.
They used it to cool their own meat locker, and sold more of it to refrigerate train cars.
“My grandpa and uncles and my dad, they started in ’31 is when they started,” said Doty.
Now, it’s all for fun — slides and castles, built on the lakeshore on some of the coldest days of the year.
It’s something that helps their neighbors feel warm about where they live.
“It’s so exciting to see it all happen,” said Sabrina Lere, president of the Spicer Commercial Club, “to see it all come together and then see everybody come out and just enjoy it.”
“Our slogan is Spicer is nicer,” said Baker. “Winter time, they talk about the ice castle.”