Each winter, volunteers headed by the area firefighters, put in more than 700 "man hours" to cut nearly 3000 12-inch-thick ice blocks from a local lake, haul them to downtown Eagle River, Wisconsin, and build a huge ice palace.
Eagle River's Ice Palace has become a popular attraction for motorists, snowmobilers, locals and visitors, as dozens of people stop each day to photograph the 20-foot high structure along Highway 45 North.
I visited it recently in the afternoon and while I attempted to photograph and do a video of it ( attached here below ) at least 3 cars pulled up to get their photo op. A great site to see! It sits right off the main snowmobile trail so everyone has access to it's splendor. Please click here to see my video of the 2011 Eagle River WI Ice castle.
The ice palace is a cool facade that is at once transparent and opaque, depending on the light, and it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, different each year.
Locals have been constructing this castle on and off since the late 1920s, with a few years missed in the '40s, probably due to World War II, and is now constructed annually, weather permitting, on the weekend closest to New Years, according to Pat Weber, chief of Eagle River area's Volunteer Fire Department.
When asked how the ice palace got its start to, Thomas speculates, "there probably weren't a lot of things to do in the winter back then; and, since my grandfather was cutting the ice anyway, and probably had some ice leftover, he began building the early structures."
Hanke may have begun modestly, but the ice palace has grown, developed and evolved ever since.
According to Thomas, the local Lion's Club took over construction of the ice palace when it became too big of a project for a small group of individuals. Then, about 10 years ago, the Eagle River volunteer Fire Department took over the project for the same reasons.
"It's a wonderful project," comments Fire Chief Weber. "We take pride in our community - and we do the ice castle for the same reasons were volunteer firemen - to serve the community and the people of the area," he says.
For more Information on the Eagle River WI local ice castle, pelase go to this website for additional information: http://www.eagleriver.org/icecastle.asp