On Saturday, February 1, Hanford Mills Museum will hold the Ice Harvest Festival, which recreates a winter tradition that was essential to rural communities up until the early 20th century. Using vintage tools, children and adults are invited to walk out on the frozen mill pond to cut and maneuver blocks of ice. The ice blocks are pushed up a ramp and then loaded onto sleds, which are then hauled to a traditional ice house.
The Festival, which runs 10 am–4 pm, also features a hot soup buffet, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and children’s activities. The SUNY Delhi Hospitality Center Ice Team will be making ice sculptures on site. In the Hanford House, which shows how a family would live in the 1920s, interpreters will be cooking treats on a woodstove. Visitors also can watch films of ice harvests in the 1930s and warm up by outdoor fire pits.
The Museum Shop will be open, offering Mill-made crafts, traditional toys, books and local products. Area farmers and vendors will be selling knitted hats and mittens, cheese, fresh roasted peanuts, and other items.
“Before refrigeration, ice was the only way to keep food cold, so communities would harvest it in the winter and store it until it was needed,” explains Liz Callahan, executive director of Hanford Mills Museum. “Many people are surprised when they hear that the ice in the ice house will keep until next fall. We will use the ice to make ice cream at our Independence Day Celebration.”
She said that area farmers used the ice to keep milk and other agricultural products cold, and also sell ice.
Callahan noted that the Ice Harvest Festival can attract more than 1,000 people. “We call Ice Harvest the region’s coolest tradition. There is a great spirit of community as everyone joins together to fill the ice house,” she said. She said that the ice harvesting is wheelchair accessible.
More activities will be added to the Festival in the coming weeks. Up-to-date information is available at HanfordMills.org.