Photo by Colleen O’Neill
Getting to the ice field on Pontiac Bay, Ice Palace construction manager Dean Baker watches as Michael Knapp plows snow cover from the frozen surface of Lake Flower.
SARANAC LAKE — Ice Palace construction for Saranac Lake’s 2017 Winter Carnival held off until this week, sidestepping a January thaw.
Ice was already formed over a foot thick on Lake Flower, but the warm air gave builders pause.
“We’re leaving the ice in the lake where it will not melt,” construction manager Dean Baker said last week, with an eye on the forecast.
The coming days should see air temperatures drop into the teens.
Winter Carnival Committee spokeswoman Colleen O’Neill said the layer of ice layers on Pontiac Bay is at least 12 inches, likely more.
But the main concern was slush: the mortar used to seal the palace blocks in place.
“The second you take the ice out, and you have warm temperatures, that’s when problems occur. The bigger problem is actually the slush they use to mortar the blocks,” O’Neill explained of the strategic build timed to weather.
At warmer temperatures like those last week, slush melts fast, which then requires ice palace crews to refasten the blocks with more.
“I think the builders were just being cautious. They don’t want to have to redo work,” O’Neill said of the step to hold construction back a week.
The 2017 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival 2017 Adirondack Wildlife theme lent itself to a relatively easy palace project, still kept largely under wraps.
“It’s going to be nice,” Baker allowed, indicating that their design leaves room for modification if time becomes an issue.
“The ice palace design this year is going to help get it up faster,” O’Neill said.
And even with the delay in cutting blocks, palace construction crews have more time to build than weather allowed last year.
“The ice palace was put together in six days last year. We’re a little bit ahead compared to last year,” O’Neill said.
The first day or so of building uses heavy machinery and old-time ice harvesting methods to remove the blocks from the frozen lake.
Baker said they alert Ice Palace Workers (IPW) via email at first.
“Once they start getting ice blocks out and putting the first layer down, that’s when they start to need slush and people can get in and help,” O’Neill said.
The cold looks to settle into the teens next week.
It will likely be “all hands” this weekend and throughout the week. People can stop in at the palace site on Lake Flower Ave. to find out how to help.
Winter Carnival begins Feb. 3 with several evening exhibits, events and live music.
The Adirondack Artists Guild at 52 Main Street is hosting an Adirondack Wildlife Art Exhibit from 5 to 7 p.m. that night.
And the Women’s Civic Chamber is hosting the official coronation of Winter Carnival royalty at 7:30 p.m.
Live music at the Waterhole starts at 9 p.m. with The Primate Fiasco, and Annie in the Water.
Saturday brings a full schedule of winter sport and social events, beginning at 10 a.m. with the NBT Bank Ice Palace Fun Run that starts at the boat launch beside the palace.
A complete schedule of all 10 days of carnival festivities is online: saranaclakewintercarnival.com/schedule.