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Detroit Lakes workers begin harvesting ice in preparation for ice palace

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DETROIT LAKES—Ice harvesting is underway in Detroit Lakes as the city gets ready to build an ice palace.

In the frigid temps around Detroit Lakes, 75 workers packed in snow pants and boots made their way into the little Detroit Lake, pulling out hundreds of ice blocks.

It's grueling work, but they're not complaining; in about three weeks ice blocks will create a community castle.

"The guys in the skids out here are basically just bigger kids with big toys, and what kid wouldn't want to build an ice palace?" said Scott Walz, Project co-chair.

The palace is expected to be 24 feet tall and 30 feet wide, made completely out of ice from Little Detroit.

It's a $55,000 dollar project that depends totally on the cooperation of Mother Nature.

"It's very organic, because you're working with construction and nature, and the outside, and the environment, you kind of have to go with the flow and hope for the best," said Hans Gilsdorf, Artist.

The ice has to be at least 12 inches thick, and harvesters have to cut each square exactly alike, the blocks are then sent up a chute and slid across the lake, where they wait to be stacked.

At the end of the harvest they hope to have 1,000 blocks, which is no small feat; each block is about 900 pounds, but it's much easier on Friday than the last time there was a harvest here.

The last harvest was almost 50 years ago.

Back then, ice harvesting was the second industry in Becker County.

On Friday, only tools and stories are left behind as reminders of what was once a lucrative business.

"I think just being reminded of how grueling of a job that was, it's so impactful and it's so great for our younger audience to see how hard that job was," said Becky Mitchell, Becker County Museum.

For those on the ice, it's all about enjoying what the north has to offer.

"We just want people to come back and enjoy winter, go outside, and realize that this is what winter is all about," said Gilsdorf.

They'll start construction on the Ice Palace right away.

It's expected to be open to the public on February 8th, it will kick off the Polar Fest.

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