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Ice Palace building begins

Footprint will be curved instead of usual box

Garrett Foster uses a vintage radial saw to cut ice on Lake Flower in Saranac Lake Monday morning. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

SARANAC LAKE — A bright sun hung over Pontiac Bay Monday morning as more than 20 volunteers got to work building this year’s Winter Carnival Ice Palace.

Bill Madden plunged a giant saw into Lake Flower’s frozen surface while Steve Racatte used a pike to break off chunks of ice for the future palace. A crane then picked up those giant blocks of ice, and other volunteers in Ice Palace Workers 101 dragged the blocks across the snow. Normally a tractor moves the ice, but it wasn’t working, so the ice had to be transported the old-fashioned way — with big tongs and lots of muscle.

Winter Carnival Committee Chair Jeff Branch said the ice was between 11 and 12 inches thick where the IPW 101 was cutting, and they hauled in about 180 blocks Monday.

This year’s palace design won’t be the regular box style of year’s prior. Instead, it will be more curved.

One of the volunteers, Joe Plumb, said the crew is trying to get away from the traditional rectangle design and build something that will take up more space.

From left, Ice Palace Workers 101 volunteers Garrett Foster, Bill Madden and Steve Racette cut and break ice on Lake Flower in Saranac Lake Monday morning. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

“It’s going to really push our boundaries as far as access around the palace for all our equipment, but I think we should have enough room,” he said.

This is Plumb’s sixth year with the IPW 101. He’s a 35-year-old Saranac Laker, set to be part of the next generation of long-term palace volunteers.

John Ward, who carves the ice sculptures for the palace, called Plumb a foreman for the build.

“I don’t know about foreman,” Plumb said with a chuckle, “but a bunch of us young guys are down here, trying to make a name for ourselves and show up every year.”

Though it was a little bit later of a start than the IPW 101 would’ve wanted this year, the build started successfully. The temperature hovered in the teens and single digits, and the frozen bay was thick enough to hold groups of people, a giant radial saw and a four-wheeler.

Bill Madden, left, and Steve Racette saw blocks of ice from Lake Flower in Saranac Lake Monday morning. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

In a previous interview, palace director Dean Baker said it should take about a week to construct, and as long as the weather stays cold, things should go as planned. Winter Carnival is still about two weeks away, weather forecasts predict below freezing temperatures and a few snow showers throughout the week-long celebration.

Volunteers with the Ice Palace Workers 101 saw and remove ice blocks from Lake Flower in Saranac Lake Monday morning. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)