Eagle River Ice Palace

By: Justin Ware
By: Justin Ware

Winter is big business all over Wisconsin, but in Eagle River this week it seems like it's the only business, and residents there are pulling out all the stops to make sure business continues running as usual.

Volunteers in Eagle River are picking, cutting and scratching together an ice palace that is one of the top tourist attractions in the Northwoods.

"We love to come and see it being built," said Illinois resident Paula Deforest, "and we bring people up and take pictures after it's all lit up."

The nearly complete ice castle will consist of more than 2,500 blocks of 14-inch thick ice carved from an area lake.

Since 1935, Eagle River has come together to construct the palace to coincide with other winter activities. This year, the structure is going up during the world snowmobiling championships, but for the past two years, warm winter temperatures forced Eagle River residents to forgo their palace made of ice.

"We've had problems, because of lack of ice thickness," said Volunteer worker Jack Thomas, "we could get it out on the ice, but we couldn't get off the shoreline."

And no ice palace is not the news folks in Eagle River want to hear.

"Well, they're always looking forward to it," said Bob McDonald, 25-year Ice Palace veteran, "in fact, around Christmas. They're already talking about ice castle time."

Thanks to some plywood planks that bridged the thick ice with the shoreline and overall colder temperatures, people in Eagle River will get their ice castle this year, and those who visit the small, northern-Wisconsin town will get a treat they're sure to appreciate.

The ice castle will stay up until warmer weather forces the fire department to bulldoze it for safety reasons, but firefighters say that doesn't normally happen until March.

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