EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (WCCO) -- Our warm December meant lots of winter activities had to be delayed -- from outdoor ice rinks to outdoor exhibits like the Ice Castles in Eden Prairie.
In fact, it was so warm that the Ice Castles almost didn't happen. But then the cold arrived in a big way and this weekend, the Ice Castles will open to the public.
Now, builders are placing the final touches on the Ice Castles before opening day.
"All the ice you see out here is just 100 percent natural," Site Manager Blake Hawbaker said. "There's no dye or additives, it's just blue ice."
Hawbaker says they stick to a theme -- keep the castle looking as organic and natural as possible. The 60 towers made of solid ice are spread over an acre, with walls about 10 feet thick.
Between the walls, you'll find tunnels, caves, fountains, waterfalls and slides. The entire structure is built on thousands of homegrown icicles.
"We grow thousands of icicles everyday -- harvest them just by picking them and bringing them up to the top of the castle," Hawbaker said.
They place the icicles where the ice should flow -- the water freezes on top and in time, the icicles are absorbed into the walls. Hawbaker says it takes more than 2 million gallons of water that come from three miles of water lines running underneath the castle, attached to sprinklers.
"[We] spray the water and it catches on the ice and freezes, and builds up and up and up, and that's how we design the whole thing," Hawbaker said.
It takes a crew of 10 to 20 people at least 12 hours a day, seven days a week to build the structures. With only a few days left, they're almost set to open.
IF you're planning on checking out the palace made of ice, bundle up. And if you want an extra special show, plan on attending once the sun goes down.
"[There are] hundreds of lights all through the ice, and we have a light show synced up to the music," Hawbaker said.
Staff say it's best to buy tickets online in advance. On Fridays and Saturdays they have fire-breathing performers. For more info, go to wcco.com
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