In the days before mechanical refrigeration, ice harvesting was an essential wintertime activity. The ice harvested in the winter would be used to keep food and agricultural products cold in the warmer months.
Hanford Mills Museum in the Catskills’ East Meredith will hold the 31st annual Ice Harvest Festival on Saturday, February 1st.
With enough ice, visitors can borrow ice cleats and walk on the frozen Mill Pond and use an ice saw to cut ice, and other historic tools to maneuver the ice up a ramp. The ice blocks, which typically weigh 50 pounds, are then transferred to the ice house by bobsled. The ice is stacked in the ice house, insulated with sawdust from the Mill. In the past ten years, ice depth has ranged from 7-20 inches.
Another ice-dependent activity is ice fishing. The Dave Brandt Chapter of Trout Unlimited will provide the equipment and expertise to offer kids the chance to try ice fishing.
The SUNY Delhi Hospitality Center Ice Carving Team will use a variety of tools, including chainsaws and blow torches, to create beautiful ice sculptures. Blacksmiths will demonstrate a variety of historic smithing techniques to make cooking utensils and decorative pendants. In the John Hanford Farmhouse, which recreates home life in the 1920s, there will be cooking demonstrations using the Royal Bride wood-fired cookstove.
Exhibitors include Kortright Handiworks, Watershed Agricultural Council, Cooperstown Distillery, Byebrook Farm, Catharina’s Hats and Mittens, Catskill Forest Association, and the Dave Brandt Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Hanford Mills will also offer a variety of kids’ activities, including a scavenger hunt.
More than 15 area restaurants will provide soup and chili at the Hot Soup Buffet. Restaurants providing soup include: Alfresco’s Italian Bistro, Applebee’s, Autumn Cafe, Blue Bee Café, Brooks House of BBQ, Cafe Ommegang, Cooperstown Diner, Danny’s Market, Denny’s, Jackie’s Restaurant, Morey’s Family Restaurant, Oneonta Bagel Company, the Otesaga, Simply Thai, and TK’s Diner. Proceeds from the soup buffet and cookie sale (baked goods provided by Junkyard Bakehaus) benefit Hanford Mills Museum’s educational programs.
Visitors can check ice harvesting conditions online, or by calling (607) 278-5744.
The ice must be 8 or more inches deep before the public is allowed on the frozen pond. If there is 6-8 inches of quality ice, Hanford Mills staff will cut ice, and visitors can transfer the ice from the pond to the ice house.
Children 12 and under receive free admission. Admission for adults and teens is $9; senior admission is $7. Hanford Mills Museum members receive free admission. Discounts also are available for teachers, first responders, veterans, members of the military, EBT cardholders, and AAA members.
Hanford Mills is located at 51 County Highway 12 in East Meredith, at the intersection of Delaware County Routes 10 & 12, just 10 miles from Oneonta, and 15 miles from Delhi. More information is available on their website, or by calling (607) 278-5744.
Photo of Hanford Mills Ice Harvest Festival provided.