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Ice castles: Eden Prairie's opens Jan. 9, another planned near Lake Superior

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Not one, but two huge ice sculptures are in the works in our area and will soon be ready for visitors.

Eden Prairie ice castle

For those of you waiting to visit the ice castle being built in Eden Prairie, just hang on another week or so. Eden Prairie officials say the attraction will be open for visitors on Jan. 9 – a bit later than expected because the warm temperatures in December slowed down the construction process.

The 40-foot-tall, LED-lit custom structure created by Utah company Ice Castles LLC at Miller Park was hoping to open the day after Christmas, then rescheduled for Jan. 3. Now, the organizers say Jan. 9 is a definite.

The Eden Prairie version is one of four being created this winter. Utah, Vermont and New Hampshire also get one. The company built a similar castle next to the Mall of America two years ago.

The natural setting allows for more interactive elements such as slides and water features, according to the Eden Prairie News. Eden Prairie officials expect from 50,000 to 70,000 visitors to the castle, and hope those folks will also stick around and spend a little money in town at local shops and restaurants.

All the details, including ticket prices and special events, are on the Ice Castle's website.

Towering ice 'wall' in Twin Ports

Yet another ice sculpture, billed as the world's largest, will soon be formed on the shores of Lake Superior at Barker's Island in Superior, Wis.

The "Lake Superior Ice Project" was commissioned by the city several months ago in hopes it will attract visitors to the area over the winter.

The sculpture will be a single ice wall at least 75 feet tall and 90 feet wide. It's being built by Roger Hanson of Big Lake, Minn., who calls himself Iceman Roger. He's been making these ice sculptures since 2007, starting out in his backyard (one is pictured above).

"It'll be massive," Hanson told WDIO. "It's going to look like a glacier up front ... a glacier that has just ripped off."

Hanson uses a combination of computer software, electronics and mechanical engineering to make the sculptures.

He erects a tall tower with a nozzle on top to spray water in a pattern that he's programmed on his computer. The water catches on stainless steel wires Hanson has arranged, freezes and builds up, according to WDIO. Over time the layers of ice grow and form a huge wall (A side view is pictured above left).

Hanson posted this time-lapse video which shows how one ice sculpture was built.

One unique feature is that the water he's using for the sculpture will come from Lake Superior.

How quickly the sculpture is formed is, of course, dependent on the weather.

Assuming all goes well, Hanson is under contract with the city of Superior to produce similar ice sculptures for two more winters.

Visitors can stop by Barker’s Island to see the structure going up or follow the Lake Superior Ice Project on its Facebook page.

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