“We call Ice Harvest the region’s coolest tradition; it’s a day of winter fun and hands-on history,” says Hanford Mills executive director Liz Callahan. “There were 75 people at the first Ice Harvest in 1989, and now we regularly welcome 1,200 or more to the Ice Harvest Festival. It’s an opportunity to embrace winter, enjoy the outdoors, and learn about the past in a unique way.”The popular winter event celebrates an activity that was essential before mechanical refrigeration. People would cut ice from frozen ponds and rivers and then store it in ice houses. In the warmer months, the ice would be used to keep food and agricultural products cold. “Ice was viewed as a winter crop by area farmers,” explains Callahan. The ice harvested at the festival will be used to make ice cream at Hanford Mills Museum’s Independence Day Celebration on July 4.
Festival features a range of activities
The SUNY Delhi Hospitality Center Ice Team will be transforming blocks of ice into works of art. The Dave Brandt Chapter of Trout Unlimited will offer children the chance to ice fish. Visitors can enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh rides around the Museum site. The Hot Soup Buffet features soup and chili made by area restaurants. There will be blacksmith and historic cooking demonstrations. The Catskill Interpretive Center will have art supplies for visitors to sketch on site, and information on the new Catskill Art Club. Local vendors include Byebrook Farm Farmstead Gouda, Catharina’s Hats and Mittens, Cabana Coffee, and the Cooperstown Distillery. Heat Smart Otsego will offer tours of the Museum’s advanced pellet boiler and district heating system and provide information on clean heating and cooling technologies.
The hot soup buffet will feature chili and soup from Alfresco’s Italian Bistro, the Autumn Café, Brooks House of BBQ, Cross Roads Café, Fiesta Mexican Grill & Cantina, the Green Earth Café, Mel’s at 22, Morey’s Family Restaurant, Oneonta Bagel Company, the Otesaga, Signatures Restaurant, Simply Thai, and the SUNY Delhi Hospitality Program. The College Association of Delhi, Inc. will make rolls, and Junkyard Bakehaus provides cookies. Sales from soup and cookies benefit the Museum’s educational programs.
See hanfordmills.org for more information and updates. If the ice is 8 or more inches deep, the public can fully participate in the ice harvest. Because snow acts as an insulator, during the weeks leading up to the Ice Harvest Festival, Museum staff members shovel the pond. “Our staff works hard to ensure a good crop of strong clear ice,” says Callahan. “With the recent single digit temperatures, it’s certainly good ice-making weather.” In recent years, the depth of the ice has ranged from 7 inches to more than 18 inches.
Admission and Information
Children 12 and under receive free admission. Admission for adults and teens is $9; senior admission is $7. Discounts available for teachers, first responders, veterans, members of the military, EBT cardholders, and AAA members. Hanford Mills Museum members receive free admission.