Up until the early 20th century, ice harvesting was an essential winter activity in rural communities. Ice blocks were cut from frozen rivers and ponds and then stored until the warmer months to keep milk and other agricultural products cold, and also as a winter crop to sell.
The Hanford Mills Museum has announced that this year’s Ice Harvest Festival is set to be held virtually, from February 2nd through 17th.
The Festival will begin on Tuesday, February 2nd at 7 pm, with Birding for Bald Eagles. In this online presentation, the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society (DOAS) will offer a special online presentation to highlight the region’s Bald Eagle population. DOAS Co-President Andy Mason and DOAS Director and Research Coordinator Tom Salo will discuss the history of eagle conservation in New York State, eagle identification, and a new self-guided driving tour and map, developed by DOAS, that will allow people to independently visit sites that are good for eagle viewing. Register for the free program at doas.us.
On Thursday, February 4 at 7 pm, Andrew Robichaud, Assistant Professor of History at Boston University, will join HMM staff Liz Callahan and Kajsa Harley for an online presentation, Winter’s Coolest Crop: Ice Harvesting History and Culture. Robichaud’s book-in-progress, tentatively titled On Ice: Transformations in American Life, is a history of climate, ice, and the ice trade in North America, and explores the cultural and economic ice age in nineteenth-century America. Along with a discussion of the history of ice harvesting in the northeast, they will discuss how Hanford Mills celebrates the historic community tradition of ice harvesting. The program is free, registration is required and can be completed online. A recording of the program will also be posted to the Museum’s YouTube Channel.
Friday, February 5th, will feature a Science Trivia Night with the Science Discovery Center. The A.J. Read Science Discovery Center and SUNY Oneonta Planetarium will host a three-round online trivia game on Zoom on February 5 from 7 to 9 pm. Participants can play as a team (2-5 people) or play solo. The trivia will be “ice” themed, from glaciers, to ice planets, to the history of ice and refrigeration. Registration is required and can be completed online.
On Saturday, February 6 at 11 am, Luke Murphy, Hanford Mills education coordinator, will offer a family-friendly online presentation, Ice Harvesting and Ice Houses. He will talk about how ice houses work and experiment with different materials to determine what insulates ice the best. The program is free, registration is required and can be completed online. The program will also be posted to the Museum’s YouTube channel. Hanford Mills will also offer a winter scavenger hunt that families can do on their own. The scavenger hunt will be available on their website.
The Festival will end with Catskills Winter Trivia on Wednesday, February 17, at 6 pm. The Catskills Visitors Center will host a virtual trivia event on its Instagram page.
Hanford Mills staff will also answer questions about ice harvesting on the Hanford Mills Facebook page. Questions can also be submitted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hanford Mills Museum is collaborating with several nonprofits organizations to offer more online activities.
Students from the Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta have developed three short videos on the ice harvesting process, the science of ice and ice houses, and the water cycle and climate change. They will be available to watch on the Hanford Mills Museum YouTube channel starting on February 6th.
More information on the Ice Harvest Festival can be found on the Hanford Mills website.
Photo of Ice Harvest provided by Hanford Mills.