Ice castle attraction seen as a catalyst for year-round tourism in Lake George

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Lake George Village Mayor Robert Blais speaks at a press conference Tuesday about the upcoming Ice Castles attraction at the Charles R. Wood Festival Commons in Lake George this winter. Lucerne Lake Supervisor, Gene Merlino, watches. Photo: Star of the Post.

By MICHAEL GOOT

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LAKE GEORGE – Kyle Standifird, CEO of Ice Castles, said the goal is to create magic through thousands of ice cubes.

The attraction, which arrives at the Charles R. Wood Festival Commons in Lake George this winter, consists of icicles fashioned into tunnels, slides, fountains and other sculptures.

Standifird said people can experience two totally different feelings when looking at the sculptures during the day and when they are lit up at night. Kids can pretend they’re Elsa’s Ice Palace from “Frozen” or Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

“It just gives free rein to the imagination,” he said after a press conference on Tuesday to welcome the event.

Ice Castles will have locations in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Utah and Colorado. Standifird said the company couldn’t be more excited to bring the attraction to Lake George. He said Ice Castles was “energized” the more he learned about this community and about the collaboration between the public and private sectors.

Standifird said workers would start preparing the site in a week or two.

Assuming the weather cooperates, he said they should start carving the icicles around Thanksgiving.

Standifird said designers start with an overview of where caves, tunnels, slides and other attractions will go. The exact shape of the castles evolves organically.

“It’s really fascinating to see how Mother Nature does it,” he said.

The walls of the castles are about 12 to 25 feet high, according to Standifird. They are about an acre in size and consist of over 25 million pounds of ice.

He said the goal is to be open by the New Year. The attraction would open in March before closing.

Ice Castles has a one-year deal with the county, but Standifird has said their intention when they enter an area is to commit for several years.

Local officials have called the ice castles revolutionary in an effort to increase year-round visitors to the Lake George area.

Lake George Mayor Robert Blais said the village and county dreamed of using Charles R. Wood Park to attract events and make the area a year-round destination.

“Our goal was to extend our season into spring and fall and we never dreamed, or thought, about winter back then. Today we welcome Ice Castles USA and today we make that dream come true, ”he said.

Blais said he hopes other businesses will stay open during the winter.

The company plans to pay Warren County $ 50,000 to lease the property for six months. This would help cover the county’s costs for water and electricity. The county donates $ 50,000 to Ice Castles to help with marketing expenses.

Jared Henningsen, vice president of events, told a special panel discussion Tuesday afternoon that the company was started in 2011 by Brent Christensen. He had moved from California to Utah and wanted something to do for his children. Christensen used the water sprinkler to sprinkle ice cream on her children’s play and it was very popular not only with her children but also in the neighborhood.

In the third year, a local ski resort asked him to do it for the general public and the business started from there. The ice castle sites have attracted 4 million visitors since 2011.

Henningsen said it was a meticulous process of growing ice cubes of varying lengths in a field and harvesting them. Then they are placed by hand in different places. It is a very laborious process requiring around 20 to 25 builders.

The ice castles will be open five days a week, according to Henningsen. It will be open on weekends from noon to 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m. and Monday, Thursday and Friday from 4 to 9:30 p.m. The trade would be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The price of tickets varies depending on whether it is a weekday or weekend and depending on the method of purchase. It would be $ 15 to $ 30 for children and $ 20 to $ 35 for adults.

Ice Castles expects more than 90,000 visitors. Henningsen said they are targeting markets in upstate New York, greater New York City, Boston and Canada if cross-border travel is permitted.

These visitors are expected to generate more than $ 4 million in other spending, including accommodation, restaurants, shops and other tourist attractions, according to Henningsen.

Tickets will go on sale in early December. It will be a hot ticket.

“Most of the sites, within a week, are pretty much full. It’s going fast, “he said.

Henningsen said they plan to offer discounted tickets to residents of the Lake George area for a day or a series of days, so locals can see the attraction.

County tourism director Joanne Conley said she “channels her inner love for winter” and wishes for cold temperatures.

“It’s hard for me to contain my excitement. We’ve been working on it with local chambers of commerce, various communities and the county for the past three years, and it has finally come to fruition. Now we just need Mother Nature to cooperate, ”she said.

“Lake George is often called the Queen of American Lakes. Now the Queen will have a castle fair at the Festival Commons, ”Conley added.

In addition to this attraction, Conley said the Lake George Winter Carnival will return for its 60th season and the Winterfest event will return for its second season.

This is in addition to all the outdoor recreation such as snowmobiling, snowshoeing and skiing that the area has to offer, she added.

Rachel Seeber, chair of the Warren County Board of Directors, read some of the reviews she found online. One woman said she wanted to see every place after visiting an ice castle and another thanked all the organizers who put it together.

“We want to thank you for being here,” Seeber said.

Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce President Gina Mintzer said ice castles would go a long way in making the region a year-round destination.

“Let the fun begin,” she said.


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