Ice bar built for Snowflake Days’ 50th

Sub-zero daytime temperatures last week didn’t stop the construction of an ice bar on the patio outside the Harvest Grill restaurant at the Bunker Hills Golf Course Clubhouse to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Coon Rapids Snowflake Days.

In below zero temperatures Jan. 23, Joe Semler of I Saw It In Minnesota, Princeton, was at work carving the Coon Rapids Snowflake Days ice bar on the patio outside the Harvest Grill restaurant at the Bunker Hills Golf Course Clubhouse. The ice bar, which is lighted at night, will remain open throughout the run of the 50th anniversary of Snowflake Days, which ends Sunday, Feb. 16. Working with Semler was his son, Ben.

In below zero temperatures Jan. 23, Joe Semler of I Saw It In Minnesota, Princeton, was at work carving the Coon Rapids Snowflake Days ice bar on the patio outside the Harvest Grill restaurant at the Bunker Hills Golf Course Clubhouse. The ice bar, which is lighted at night, will remain open throughout the run of the 50th anniversary of Snowflake Days, which ends Sunday, Feb. 16. Working with Semler was his son, Ben.

Mayor Tim Howe ceremonially opened the ice bar the evening Jan. 23 by switching on the lights that adorn the ice bar, which will be remain in place throughout the run of Snowflake Days, which ends Sunday, Feb. 16.

The idea of the ice bar came from Tim Anderson, Bunker Hills golf director,  in the early planning stages of the Snowflake Days 2014 celebration.

Ted Schmolke, president of the Coon Rapids Athletic Association who like Anderson is a member of the Snowflake Days planning committee, agreed to take on the project.

A cabinet maker by trade, Schmolke, who owns and operates Coon Rapids-based Flamingo Builders, a residential building construction company, contacted a wood carver he has known for some 25 years, Joe Semler, who runs the I Saw It In Minnesota store and showroom in Princeton.

While Semler specializes in wood carvings and log furniture and had only done a handful of ice carvings before, he told Schmolke that he would take on the project.

“Joe is very talented and sawing ice is not much different than sawing wood,” Schmolke said.

But neither thought it would be this cold, according to Schmolke.

Schmolke provided Semler with the drawings for the ice bar and together with their sons, Ben Semler and Justin Schmolke, they set to work constructing the ice bar in the frigid temperatures Jan. 22.

Fifteen 300-pound blocks of ice were brought in for the ice bar and all the blocks were used, according to Schmolke.

They were purchased from a Shakopee ice maker, Schmolke said.

“The blocks were dissected in two,” Semler said.

The finished product is 12 feet long, two feet deep and 42 inches high, with a wood carved raccoon created by Semler placed on top.

In addition to the ice bar, Semler also carved a Cardinal on a separate block of ice that has been placed next to the ice bar.

Ben Semler holds the wood carved raccoon created by his father Joe Semler that is part of the Coon Rapids Snowflake Days ice bar.

Ben Semler holds the wood carved raccoon created by his father Joe Semler that is part of the Coon Rapids Snowflake Days ice bar.

“It took us three hours out there Jan. 22 and it was very cold,” Schmolke said.

The Semlers put the finishing touches to the ice bar Jan. 23 in time for the grand opening that evening.

Schmolke is enthusiastic about the finished product, he said.

And he got a text message from Howe, who stopped by the Harvest Grill to look at the ice bar Jan. 22 and wrote that it was “pretty cool,” Schmolke said.

The ice bar will be open, weather permitting, during the entire run of Snowflake Days, according to Schmolke.

Then it will be taken down, Schmolke said.

Schmolke does not believe there is any danger of it melting before then, he said.

Indeed, it was too cold Jan. 23 to use a torch to make the ice blocks clear because they were too brittle, Schmolke said.

The frigid weather was the biggest challenge in constructing the ice bar, according to Semler.

“I have never done it when it has been this cold before,” Semler said.

Semler used the same chain saw to carve the ice that he would in wood carving, but with a different tip, he said.

Nor did he use oil to cool the chain saw as he would when carving wood, the water from the ice provided the cooling that was  needed, Semler said.

Besides having “Coon Rapids Snowflake Days 50 years” carved into ice, the names of the ice bar sponsors are also etched into the ice bar.

They are Bromley Printing and Marketplace Home Mortgage, as well as the Coon Rapids Community Strength Foundation.

According to its website, I Saw It In Minnesota features custom log furniture, handmade log swings and custom carvings by Semler; the store also has home decor, wildlife prints and gifts.

Semler’s store in Princeton also offers carving classes, from beginner to intermediate, and demonstrations.

Ice bar hours of operation, weather permitting are: today (Friday, Jan. 31), 4-9 p.m.; tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 1), 1-9 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 2 (Super Bowl), 4-9 p.m.; Thursday, Feb. 6, (GB Leighton and Tim Mahoney concert), 5-9 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 7. 4-9 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 8, 1-9 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 14, (Valentine’s Day), 4-9 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 15, 1-9 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 16, 1-6 p.m.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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