Pulling Our Weight: Building the Winter Carnival Ice Palace

Pulling Our Weight: Building the Winter Carnival Ice Palace

It’s often said that there are two seasons in Minnesota—winter and construction season. Construction season is typically the time when Local 49 members are busiest, but several Local 49 members have been working hard on a different type of project this winter.

The Winter Carnival, which opens on Thursday, January 25th in Rice Park, will once again feature an ice palace. Local 49 members and fellow building trade union members have been working diligently in ten-hours shifts Sunday through Sunday to complete the famous ice palace.

Local 49 members Keith Olson and Sam Kmit, who both work for Park Construction, have been working at the ice palace since its inception.  

Olson said he has been operating the excavator and picking the ice to give to the bricklayers who are setting the ice. Kmit said he was in charge of unloading all of the ice, sorting it by which pieces needed to go in what order for the ice castle and then giving the ice to the excavator and crane operators to erect the ice palace.

Olson and Kmit said they were nervous at first, but once the project got going they said they adjusted to the challenges that came with building a structure out of ice.

“We dig holes in the ground, we don’t stack ice cubes, but it’s working out great,” Olson said laughing.

“Ice is a whole different beast. Everything you do is slowed down because everything is so slippery, and the environment is tight so it makes operating a skid steer, excavator or crane very difficult,” Kmit explained.

Kmit also explained that the cutting and shaping of the ice was no easy task either.

“It was kind of a mess with the first cutting machine we used to cut the ice so they had to bring in a cutter to make the ice a uniformed size so it was easier to stack the ice blocks,” Kmit said.

The weather was also a factor in completing the ice palace by its January 25th deadline.

“When everything got colder you would have to wait until the equipment was warmed up to get started, and then when it got really warm during the day for the ice to melt, but then would re-freeze overnight you would have a pallet frozen to the ground,” Kmit said.

Despite the setbacks and challenges, both Olson and Kmit are excited to be a part of such a landmark project for the Winter Carnival and the Super Bowl celebrations.

“I’ve made a lot of new friends on this project and have worked with certain trades that I normally wouldn’t work with so it’s been cool,” Olson said. “I’m excited to go to the lighting ceremony and see it all completed.”

“I’m happy to be a part of this. I’m glad that Park (Construction) volunteered to do this job and donated all the time, and for all the sponsors who donated so much—it really is about a whole community coming together,” Kmit said.

The Winter Carnival begins on Thursday, January 25th at 5:15 p.m. with the Moon Glow Pedestrian Parade at 6 p.m. For more information visit www.wintercarnival.com