SPICER, Minn. (WCCO) — In a spray of ice shavings and frigid water, Green Lake near Spicer, Minnesota, is giving up winter’s building blocks. They are huge blocks of ice, perfectly clear and uniform in size.
“It’s going to be 70 feet tall,” park construction superintendent, Mike Gutknecht said.
He’s referring to the St. Paul Winter Carnival ice palace that will soon be constructed in Rice Park. It will take some 4,000 of the icy blocks to build the complete structure.
“Right now we are palletizing and loading them onto semis. We figure it will take about 60 truckloads to get them all to Rice Park in St. Paul,” Gutknecht said.
Following lines scribed in the frozen lake, a giant sled saw slices a precise grid pattern. Then, workers with chainsaws follow along to slice the blocks free. Building a precise castle requires uniformity.
“The challenge the past few days is the weather,” Mike Lint, a partner in the Wee Kut Ice Company, said.
Even the cold can slow down a product that depends on it. Workers have to stop from time to time to clear chunks of ice from the frozen conveyor. Wee Kut has been doing this kind of work for years – it’s a winter harvest tradition on Green Lake dating back to the 1930’s.
“We cut our grid work out like cutting glass and we don’t cut all the way through,” Lint said. “We free two sides of the grid and then break the rest of it.”
Floating in water the blocks move with ease. But when they get to dry land it can be a bear. Each single block will weigh in at more than a quarter of a ton.
With picks and patience, the blocks are floated to a trusty old conveyor. Then slid to the forklifts for transport by truck to the job site, 100 miles away.
“We’re proud to do it,” says Spicer mayor, Denny Baker.
For folks in Spicer it’s a sense of pride – helping make ice palace dreams come true.