Construction of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Ice Palace has begun. Construction involves harvesting ice from Lake Flower, transporting it to the shore and assembling it according to a blueprint. Construction on the palace will likely continue until the start of the carnival on January 31.
The Ice Palace is built by volunteers, organized by a group informally known as the Ice Palace Workers 101 (IPW Local 101). The public is welcome to volunteer and roles are assigned based on comfort level, skill and ability.
The construction of the Ice Palace is a community effort by those dedicated to keeping this time-honored tradition alive. Volunteers are subject to very cold temperatures and inclement weather conditions, all while handling ice and snow.
Modern equipment is used for the heavy lifting, but traditional manual methods are practiced as well, including antique hand saws and ice tongs. Another manual process which is critical to the construction is making slush, the mixture of water and snow that forms the mortar holds the ice blocks together. Volunteers fill countless buckets with water, pound in snow, carry it to the palace walls and apply the slush with rubber gloved hands.
The Ice Palace, located adjacent to the Lake Flower State Boat Launch on River Street, is the most popular attraction at the winter carnival.
The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee, formally known as the Society for Promotion of Winter Carnival, Saranac Lake, Inc., is a not-for-profit 501(c)(4) organization of volunteers dedicated to planning and presenting an annual mid-winter festival. This 10-day, communitywide event traces its roots to a one-day Winter Carnival held in 1897 by the Pontiac Club. The Carnival honors its heritage every year by building an Ice Palace from blocks of ice harvested from Lake Flower’s Pontiac Bay, where carnival events have been traditionally held for generations.
For more information, visit the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival website. The 2020 Winter Carnival will take place January 31 – February 9.
Photo of Saranac Lake Winter Carnival first day of ice palace construction provided by Mark Kurtz markkurtzphotography.com.