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They came bearing gifts. The opportunity for a small summer tourist-driven economy to add a hundred and fifty-five thousand visitors over the course of several normally ‘dead’ winter months was a song the ice castle gang sang that had the word ‘gift’ wound all through it. The reality of global warming was never discussed, nor the potential for its possible effects on this weather-related undertaking.

The raising or building of the ice castle formation (commonly called ‘growing,’) is totally related to how cold it is outside, snow conditions in the area, and even wind experience at just above ground level over the surface of the clear, solid, but very temporary structure. What is going to happen, as the winter of late 2018 and early 2019 fails to act like a real Wisconsin winter at all? The city put up a low five figures to induce the ice castle company to come to Lake Geneva, but the expenses that company has laid out go far beyond any money they were paid. The company currently has six ice castles in the process of coming to full fee-paying fruition across the country, but only a few of them are open. A hundred and fifty thousand people coming to Lake Geneva, attending for the specific intent of going through the edifice, would add immeasurably to the ability of local businesses to economically survive the toughest of the winter months.

But will it work? Will the throngs come? Is that expression, made famous by the movie about a farmer who built a baseball diamond in a cleared cornfield, going to come true? “If you build it, they will come,” may very well be accurate and effective as a folklore expression of some truth.   The first predicted opening date of December 21st of 2018, is more likely to be just before, or even during, the opening of Winterfest, Lake Geneva’s biggest celebration of the year (well, Venetian Days comes very close, held during the summer months).

What will that effect? The world’s largest and most celebrated packed snow carving contest occurs no more than a few yards from the opening of the monster ice castle. Will one event over-shadow the other? Winterfest is scheduled to open on the 26th of January. It is currently predicted, in the sliding scale sort of predicting the ice castle has been subject to, that the castle will open on January 18th too but that date is already considered premature. The next opening date after that, already discussed for the opening, is January 25th. Wow! Meanwhile, the helicopter rides, prevented from landing or taking off in Lake Geneva, are coming anyway. The helicopter company has the same problem, however, as the ice castle company the weather! They can only take off and land out on the ice, away from the shore. To do that they need no permission, and the company has decided to come without the city’s approval. But they need thick ice. A loaded helicopter needs ice capable of supporting just under 3000 pounds of pressure, that pressure applied down through two narrow rails running in parallel, front to back, under the aircraft.

The title of this article is taken from a song written by Joni Mitchell long ago called Both Sides Now. It is the ending lyrics of the song that kind of lend an ominous note to the potential for the potential of the ice castle’s success: “You leave ’em laughing when you go, and if you care, don’t let them know… don’t give yourself away.

There seems to be no ill intent on the part of anyone participating in Lake Geneva’s very busy winter scheduling, however. Maybe it would be better to simply hope that everyone involved ends up smiling, no matter how it goes. Lake Geneva is such a wonderful place to live and experience all these things.


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