STOCKHOLM, Wis. -- It was a cold, Saturday afternoon in January, and Brad Nagel decided to make some fun for his family and friends by creating an ice carousel on Lake Pepin.
Nagel, who works as a field instructor for the Red Wing Environmental Learning Center, and his wife, Martha Harris, the director of the YMCA’s Camp Pepin, decided the lake in front of the camp, just south of Stockholm, would be the ideal spot.
Jason Jech and Morgan Lane spent two hours helping Nagel cut a 70-foot diameter circle in ice that was 7 inches thick.
“I put together a jig, like a wooden sled that holds the chain saw, and we put an ice screw, --like we use for ice climbing -- in the middle and tied a rope to that,” Nagel explained. “The rope comes to the jig, and then you pull the jig around and score the ice so you have a pattern.”
They then moved the jig out four inches to give a second, larger circle and used the chain saw to cut through the ice on both circles. The 4-inch strip of ice between the two circles broke into pieces, and they pushed the pieces under the ice, so there was a clear path to let the ice disk in the middle move freely.
“Then we cut a hole in the ice and put a two-horse motor from our dingy in it,” Nagel said. “Then we started spinning it.”
By 10 in the morning, they had the carousel moving and built a fire in a grill in the center. They invited visitors to step out onto the icy disk and ride around. People came and went throughout the chilly afternoon, and when the sun went down, they placed luminaries on the ice, and kept it moving for two hours after dark.
At times, as many as a dozen people were on the ice carousel, but it never wobbled or banged into the surrounding ice.
“It is amazing the buoyancy that the ice has,” Nagel said. “It brushes the sides a little bit, but it is so heavy that it just stays in place.”
After reading about ice carousels on the internet, Nagel and Lane decided to try it a week earlier. That one didn’t work, but Nagel admitted, “We learned a lot.”
His second effort on Jan. 9 worked perfectly.
With temperatures well below freezing in the night, nature took over, and the spinning ice disk returned to the solid block of ice covering Lake Pepin.
“It’s like the joy of cut flowers,” Nagel said.