6-year-old Liam Lawless is the next generation of Ice Palace volunteers
SARANAC LAKE — Liam Lawless gets a rush out of slapping slush.
Lawless, 6, was possibly the youngest member of the Ice Palace Workers Local 101 this year. On Jan. 23, after his birthday earlier that week and after months of hounding his dad, Ken, to join the volunteers, he was finally inducted into the IPW Local 101 team.
He had a small voice and a big smile as he excitedly got his mittens wet and slapped the slush into the cracks in the Palace wall to seal them in place.
“I love slapping,” Liam said as he patted slush into place. “Boom!”
He said his hands never got cold.
“A long, long, long time, I wanted to work on the Ice Palace,” Liam said after Carnival.
“He was after me for weeks,” Ken said. “I loved it. The next generation coming up, if we can get these young guys involved, we can keep the tradition going.”
During Ice Palace construction this year, Winter Carnival Committee Chair Jeff Branch told the Enterprise his biggest fear is that one year, the volunteer effort to build the Ice Palace will lose momentum. He was encouraged to see a large group working this year, and especially delighted by Liam’s excitement to get to work.
At the Coronation ceremony kicking off this year’s events, Branch recognized Liam’s enthusiastic volunteer spirit by giving him the First Button of Carnival.
Branch started this tradition in 2020 — he gave the first button of that year to Julia Walkow, who proposed the Myths and Legends theme for that year’s Carnival.
Branch said he and his family love the movie “The Polar Express.” In the movie, Santa Claus gives out “the first gift of Christmas” to someone who shows special Christmas spirit. Branch liked this idea and wanted to do something similar for Carnival.
When the shipment of Carnival buttons comes in, the first one is removed and kept in an envelope.
“I always keep an eye out for someone who really just loves Carnival,” Branch said.
He saw Liam working on the Ice Palace and was touched.
“He was just full of joy,” Branch said. “His eyes were sparkling. … He loves to slap that slush on the wall.”
Liam now keeps the button in his bedroom.
Branch said he knows Liam is a future member of IPW Local 101.
The skills to use the Palace-making tools — like the ice saw, hand saws as tall as Liam, ice tongs and die grinders — have been passed down through the generations.
Liam also got to help drive a tractor carrying the 600-pound ice blocks, but he’s sure he could lift the blocks himself.
“All six-year-olds are pretty ambitious,” Ken said with a laugh.
Liam is ambitious because he’s given opportunities to learn new skills. He’s driven four-wheelers, tractors and excavators before.
“He’s just got bigger Tonka toys,” Ken said.
Though Liam was only able to be an Ice Palace volunteer for one day, he’s caught the bug and is already asking when construction starts again. He’s excited to get back to work next year.