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Superior prepares for icy fun

Children sit in the ice throne on Barkers Island during the third annual Lake Superior Ice Festival in 2017. This year’s festival kicks off Jan. 26 and runs for three days. Jed Carlson / 1 / 2
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The fourth annual Lake Superior Ice Festival kicks off next weekend on Barker's Island.

The free family-friendly event celebrates all things winter, attracting thousands of visitors annually. This year's lineup includes hot chocolate and s'mores, roaming ice princesses, outdoor skating, a 250-foot snow slide, ice sculptures, ice racing, hay bale shuttles and pond hockey action.

"A lot of what we have going on is very similar to last year, but we're working hard to enhance what we can and make it bigger and better," said Nikky Farmakes, director of marketing and social media for the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce.

Open ice skating and the Enbridge/United Piping Inc. snow slide will be available beginning at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 26 and continuing all weekend during festival hours.

Currently under construction along East Second Street, the slide will take about 160 hours to build. More than 60 Enbridge and United Piping Inc. staff, family members and friends will volunteer to assist sledders during the festival. It's available to both the young and the young at heart. Nylon and plastic sleds will be available, although visitors can bring their own.

The ice sculptures and ice orb 365 art installation will be open for viewing all weekend, as well. Orb donations will be taken Jan. 25 at Barker's Island.

The second annual Guns 'n' Hoses Hockey Game between the Superior police and fire departments takes place at 7 p.m. Jan. 26. Last year, the police took home the trophy, and they're ready for a rematch.

Hockey action takes place all weekend during the three-day Great Lakes Pond Hockey Classic. Enjoy motorcycle and stock car ice racing 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 27. A craft fair runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 28 at Barker's Island Inn.

"Everyone should come," said Deanna Erickson, education coordinator at the Lake Superior National Estuarium Research Reserve. "It's a really great time to celebrate our greatest asset, ice and cold."

Children are the focus of events Jan. 27. They can watch ice sculptors in action and try it themselves, during demos at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The Kids Zone will be open from noon to 3 p.m. at the Estuarium. It will host indoor activities include scavenger hunts, cookie decorating, a photo booth and crafts. Live music and the chance to meet roaming ice princesses will be offered outside.

Erickson said her favorite part of the festival is seeing people out having fun in the weather.

"I'm looking forward to the fireworks, the ice sculptures and the hockey players stopping by," she said.

New this year, Sterling Silver Studio performs a fire-twirling show 3-5 p.m. Jan. 27, followed by the Duluth Figure Skating Club 7-7:30 p.m. and fireworks at 7:30 p.m.

It takes strong partnerships to make the free festival a reality, said Linda Cadotte, Superior director of parks, recreation and forestry. In addition to major sponsor Enbridge, at least 17 partners have donated time, talent and financial support to this year's festival.

"I've enjoyed how there's something for everyone and the positive attitude that it brought out in all who attended last year," she said.

The ice fever will spread this year. Several Superior businesses are sponsoring ice carvings in front of their establishments beginning Jan. 26., including Barker's Island Inn, discoverpc.NET, Spirit Room and 7 West Tap House. More than 20 businesses are offering specials during the festival. Everyone can participate. Free transportation to the event is provided by the Superior Business Improvement District Trolley on Jan. 26 and Jan. 27. The trolley will make a constant loop between the festival, Vintage Italian Pizza at 1201 Tower Ave. and Belknap Plaza, 130 Belknap St. Hay bale shuttles will provide transportation around the festival grounds.

"While we know that winter up here can throw us for a loop, we're optimistic that mother nature will play nice with us," Farmakes said, although they have backup plans in place. "This event will run snow-or-shine, cold or warm but we hope for the latter for both."

Visit or the Lake Superior Ice Festival Facebook page for more information and a schedule of events.