Giant Ice Castle is Complete in Eagle River

By: Phil Levin Email
By: Phil Levin Email

A frozen ice castle in Eagle River isn't just a tradition, it's a memory frozen into the minds of residents for generations.

On Tuesday night, volunteers led by the fire department added lights inside a 25 ft. tall ice castle in downtown Eagle River.

"We've been taking pictures of it since the kids were tiny and it just feels like fantasy right in the middle of Eagle River," said resident Nelani Nettrour.

"We weren't finished cleaning up yesterday and there were people coming in here and taking pictures already," said Volunteer Firefighter Ed Mittel.

The castle is constructed of about 2,500 ice blocks.. scored out of nearby Silver Lake.

Hauling and stacking the blocks to the site took hundreds of hours of work, but brings at least as many smiles.

"If the weather is cold, the weather is dreary, you can just walk past it and you just see the ice castle and it just lightens your heart," said Nettrour.

Folks in Eagle River are treated to a new design every year, but the tradition is older than most of the residents.

"In 1933 Hanke Ice organized and started making ice castles in Eagle River," said builder Jim Bonson.

Eagle River resident Jack Thomas has been the designer for every castle since 1987. He is also descendant of the Hanke family.

"It's in my blood," said Thomas. "My family has been doing it since the early 1930's and so I just continue doing it. I try to come up with something different every year."

Thomas says he takes suggestions from the community every year, but keeps his final plan a secret.

"Everyone says it's the most beautiful ice castle ever," said builder Jim Bonson. "But you hear that every year."

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