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Minnesota Family Creates Giant Powered Ice Carousel
When Chuck Zwilling and his family decided several years ago to celebrate Christmas by cutting a circle in the ice, they had no idea it would lead to a world record, a popular community event, and an annual fundraiser for a good cause.
The 2019 record-breaking “circle” was a 4.6 acre, 508-ft. dia. rotating carousel that people could walk, skate, curl, play hockey and just hang out on as it slowly spun in the middle of a lake near Little Falls, Minn. Though not yet recognized by Guinness World Records, the World Ice Carousel Association keeps track of records from around the world with four contenders currently - groups in Lohja, Finland; Kuopio, Finland; Sinclair, Maine; and the Zwilling family in Minnesota.
The Zwillings have now made 3 carousels, starting with a 54-ft. diameter circle, and have learned a lot about the art of ice cutting.
“The first year we used an ice chipper and string to mark a circle in the snow,” Chuck Zwilling recalls.
Now they insert a 4x4 into the ice and hook a cable on it to create a perfect circle with a chainsaw secured on a “Chainsaw Chariot” built from a tracked snowblower by Zwilling’s son-in-law, Mike Ruegemer. While one person operates the Chainsaw Chariot, another person pulls a rope connected to the machine to keep the center cable taut. They’ve also learned to angle the 36-in. chainsaw bar and only cut part way with the first cut (about 8 in.) and then go around again.
After the first circle is cut, they cut a second one 9 in. out from the first circle. Then they break up the ice between the two circles and push the ice chunks under the ice to create an opening around the carousel. It took about 9 hrs. altogether to cut out the latest carousel, and a few more hours just prior to the event to recut the 3 in. of ice that had refrozen in the open area.
To spin the giant ice circle, the Zwillings use four 24-volt trolling motors secured to the ice with H-brackets. In 2019, they added solar panels to power the motor batteries.
Even with four motors, it’s a slow ride, taking about 49 min. to make a complete turn.
“It kept turning from 1 p.m. on Friday until 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. The longest anyone else has been able to keep one spinning was 21 hrs.,” Zwilling says.
They also cut four smaller 45-ft. diameter carousels that spun faster, dedicated to major sponsors for the 2019 event, along with 70 other businesses/groups that raised $16,500 for Flyer Pride Pack, a Weekend Food Backpack Program for school children.
The 16-in. thick, 8,000-ton circle of ice was more than enough to handle the estimated 4,000-5,000 people who attended the 2019 I.C.E. Fest. The Zwillings added plenty of safety features - cones, caution tape and a shoveled path that led to a “bridge” to cross the 9-in. open water.
“People are fascinated by it,” Zwilling says. “They love seeing the big one and the small ones are fun because you feel you are moving.”
The Minnesotans’ championship was short-lived, after Kuopio, Finland, built a 603-ft. carousel in April.
“We’re going to go above that in 2020,” Zwilling says. “It might be 10 acres.”
“It’s gone from family fun to world competition, a friendly game of one-upmanship that benefits our community,” Zwilling says, noting that 2020’s I.C.E. Fest will be held February 8-9th.
Check out the video at www.farmshow.com of the Ice Carousel.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Chuck Zwilling, 21296 Forest Rd., Little Falls, Minn. 56345 (ph 320 249-1504; www.mnicefest.com; Chuck.zwilling@results.net)

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2019 - Volume #43, Issue #6