The first Saturday in February, people from across New York bundle up and head to Hanford Mills Museum for its annual Ice Harvest Festival. Using historic tools, children and adults can walk out on the frozen mill pond to cut and maneuver blocks of ice. The ice blocks are pushed up a ramp and then loaded onto sleds, which are hauled to a traditional ice house.
“We call Ice Harvest the region’s coolest tradition. There is a great spirit of community as everyone joins together to fill the ice house,” says Liz Callahan, the Museum’s executive director. She noted that the popular Disney movie Frozen opens with an ice harvest. “Frozen fans are invited to come participate in a real ice harvest, and impromptu sing-a-longs are very welcome.”
The Ice Harvest Festival, which runs 10 am until 4 pm on February 7th, includes a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. The SUNY Delhi Hospitality Center Ice Team will be making ice sculptures. The Dave Brandt Chapter of Trout Unlimited will teach visitors how to ice fish on the mill pond. Visitors can warm up by outdoor fire pits, and also at the soup buffet, which features soups from area restaurants. At the Hanford House, which shows family life in the 1920s, visitors can play tabletop games and see historic cooking demonstrations. Throughout the day, films of ice harvests from the1920s-1940s will be screened. The festival also includes horse-drawn sleigh rides and blacksmithing demonstrations.
The Museum Shop will be open, offering Mill-made crafts, traditional toys, books and local products. Local food and craft vendors onsite will include: Ate.o.Ate Food Truck (snacks and lunch items), Byebrook Farms (Gouda cheese), Promisedland Farms (knitted hats, mittens and more), LeRoux & Co. (handmade soaps), and Cooperstown Distillery (tastings).
Up until the early 20th century, ice harvesting was an essential winter activity in rural communities. “Before refrigeration, ice was the only way to keep food cold,” explains Callahan. “Ice blocks were cut from frozen rivers and ponds and then stored until the warmer months.” She said that area farmers used the ice to keep milk and other agricultural products cold, and also as an item to sell.
Callahan noted that the Ice Harvest Festival can attract more than 1,200 people. “It’s a great way to beat cabin fever.”
The ice harvested at the festival will be used to make ice cream at the Museum’s Independence Day Celebration on July 4.
Children 12 and under receive free admission. Admission for adults and teens is $9; senior admission is $7. AAA and other discounts available. Museum members receive free admission. Those living in zip codes (13757, 13739, 13786, 13750, and 13806) neighboring Hanford Mills also receive free admission.This event is universally accessible.
Hanford Mills Museum is located at 51 County Highway 12 in East Meredith, NY at the intersection of Delaware County Routes 10 & 12, just 10 miles from Oneonta, and 15 miles from Delhi. For more information, visit www.hanfordmills.org or call 607-278-5744.
About Hanford Mills Museum
Hanford Mills Museum operates an authentic water- and steam-powered historic site. The mission of Hanford Mills Museum is to inspire audiences of all ages to explore connections between energy, technology, natural resources and entrepreneurship in rural communities with a focus on sustainable choices. The museum, which is listed on the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places, will open for the 2015 season on May 15.