Friends and neighbors realize their dream of making an ice carousel on Mille Lacs Lake

In what was perhaps the first of its kind on Mille Lacs Lake, a group of friends and neighbors banded together and created their very own “ice carousel” on Saturday, Jan. 12.

Collaborator and organizer Ann Brucciani Lyon said an ice carousel was something she had wanted to do since she first heard of the idea six years ago.

“I had seen a video of an ice carousel online and I immediately knew it was something I wanted to do,” Lyon said. But to make it a reality, she needed to enlist a team.

On the eastern shore of Mille Lacs Lake this past October, such a team coalesced, consisting of a band of friends and neighbors who pooled their talents and resources and set a date of execution three long months ago.

“We committed to Jan. 12 in the hopes that the conditions would be right,” Lyon said.

To make an ice carousel, which in simplest terms is a large floating circle of ice being rotated slowly by a small motor, the thickness of the ice has to be just right.

It needs to be thick enough to safely handle foot and ATV traffic but thin enough that a typical chainsaw can cut clean through.

On Friday, January 11, Lyon and her co-conspirators checked the ice depth a couple hundred feet from the shoreline near her cabin, and were happy to find it just shy of 20-inches.

“Our longest chainsaw had a 24-inch bar,” Lyon said. “Anything thicker than 20 inches and we might not have been able to do it.”

Step by step

To build their 25-foot diameter ice carousel, Lyon and her team started by snow-blowing a large section of the lake earlier in the morning.

Once the ice was cleanly exposed, they proceeded to drive a stake firmly into the ice and then, using a can of spray paint and a length of string, marked a 12 and a half foot radius emanating from the central stake.

By 9 a.m., the first chainsaw was fired up, and quickly all eleven of them were busy cutting and removing ice.

“We worked really well together,” Lyon said. “We had a great team.”

To give the floating carousel ample room to rotate, they removed a four to six inch channel of ice from around where they had painted. Thinking about the safety of snowmobilers and others who may venture out of the ice at a later date, they hauled all excavated ice off the lake and deposited it on shore.

After a couple hours of roaring chainsaws and schlepping ice chunks, the floating carousel broke free of the surrounding ice, and although subtle, Lyon said everyone could feel its movement.

Lyon’s friend Jim Lund then cut a square hole in the floating ice near the edge, and an electric trolling motor, supported on a homemade wooden bracket, was inserted.

At 11:20 a.m. the carousel was in motion.

“We brought out lawn chairs and set up a bonfire,” Lyon said.

For the rest of the afternoon, thanks to spare trolling motor batteries, the ice carousel went round and round while those atop it shared laughs, told stories and welcomed passersby who wanted to join the fun.

“I gotta tell you,” Lyon said, “it was really amazing. A lot of things came together, and it really worked out.”

After calling it a day around 8 p.m., the group set out reflective traffic comes and yellow caution tape to warn any snowmobilers or motorists of the now motionless ice carousel.

But like a castle made of sand washing into the sea, the carousel had been reclaimed by the surrounding ice by the following morning, with only differences in ice color to remind Lyon and her friends of where it had been.

Video of the ice carousel in action can be seen on the Messenger website at

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