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The Democrat & Chronicle

January 27, 2008

Icing on the Lake (Mayville Ice Castle)
By Christine A. Smyczynski

You can have a really cool time on President’s Day weekend at the 20th annual Mayville ICE Festival, which takes place this year on February 16-17 in Mayville’s Lakeside Park on the shores of Chautauqua Lake.


ICE stands for Ice Castle Extravaganza, referring to the centerpiece of the festival, a huge castle made from blocks of ice cut from Chautauqua Lake. It takes volunteers about two weeks to construct this icy masterpiece. It is the southernmost ice castle built in the United States.


“We will have something enormous, approximately 50 feet long and twelve feet high,” said Melissa Balch, a committee member for this year’s festival. “If the lake doesn’t freeze, the castle will be made of bales of hay sprayed with water to freeze to resemble ice.” added Balch.


There will be many family-friendly activities to enjoy, including a kid’s corner with coloring, face painting and other hands-on activities, a snowman building contest (bring your own hat, scarf, and carrot nose), a snowball throwing contest, pony rides, carriage rides, and a petting zoo.


The festival kicks off with a parade through the village at 10 am on Saturday. One of the hottest events at the festival is the annual broomball tournament, in which teams compete for cash prizes. On Saturday night there will be a bonfire, followed by fireworks. In the evening, the castle is illuminated with colored lights.


If weather permits, festival goers can also enjoy ice skating on frozen Chautauqua Lake and a huge slide out of snow. Evergreen Outfitters will be on hand with a display of snowshoes and they will also have information on geocaching. If weather conditions are right, many people travel to the festival on snowmobile, as this is a very popular event with snowmobile enthusiasts. Snowmobile rides will be offered to the public, weather permitting.


Lynette Gloss of Mayville has been coming to the festival with her family for ten years, ever since her oldest daughter was an infant. “The kids look forward to the festival every year,” said Gloss, who also has a nine year old daughter and a five year old son. “Since we live right in town, we can watch for days before the festival to see the progress of the building of the castle from start to finish.”


The Gloss family generally spends the morning and afternoon enjoying all the kid’s activities, including the snow slide and ice skating. They go home for awhile and then come back later for the fireworks. “We go every year for the fireworks, as they have a really nice display,” said Gloss.


Mary Dentinger from North Tonawanda made the ninety minute trek from the Buffalo area numerous times when her children were little. “It’s something nice to do in the winter; you can get outside and get some fresh air,” said Dentinger. She added, “You need to wear lots of warm, heavy clothes and boots, because it gets pretty cold outside.”


A couple of years ago, Mary and her husband, Rick, went to the festival sans children (their youngest is in college) and enjoyed a nice getaway weekend. “We stayed at Webb’s Resort,” said Dentinger. “We went to the festival during the day, came back to the hotel for dinner and then went back to the festival in the evening. It’s really different at night because the ice castle is illuminated.” She added that the snowmobiler’s flare parade at night is “really cool.” The flare parade is tentatively scheduled for 6:30 pm on Saturday this year.


Since it is President’s Day Weekend, turn it into a mini-vacation like the Dentinger’s did and stay a night or two in one of the area’s many accommodations. Webb’s Lake Resort has 52 modern rooms, some with Jacuzzi tubs, along with a three-star restaurant, the Captain’s Table, which specializes in steak and seafood.


Webb’s Candy is known for their chocolates, including their trademark goat’s milk fudge. Down the street, the newly opened three-story Chautauqua Suites Meeting and Expo Center has 91 rooms, many with lake views. There are also a number of bed & breakfast inns in, along with numerous fine restaurants in the vicinity.


Snowmobiling in Chautauqua County.
When you go to the Mayville ICE festival, you’ll swear that every snowmobiler in Western New York is there! Snowmobiling is extremely popular in Chautauqua County, with close to 600 miles of groomed trails for enthusiasts to enjoy. The trails are maintained by five local snowmobiling clubs. There are about 3,000 registered snowmobilers in Chautauqua County. Snowmobilers from nearby Ohio and Pennsylvania also enjoy the trails in Chautauqua County and many of them plan their visit to coincide with the ICE Festival.


While snowmobiling is one of the more popular winter activities in the state, please keep safely first and remember that riders under 18 must take a training course before they can participate. Vehicles must also be licensed and insured. For more information on snowmobile trails, clubs, and regulations, contact the Chautauqua County Visitor’s Bureau.


If you go


Mayville-Chautauqua Chamber of Commerce (716-753-3113; ) PO Box 22, Mayville, NY 14757


Chautauqua County Visitor’s Bureau (716-357-4569, 800-242-4569, 866-908-4569; PO Box 1441, Chautauqua Institution Main Gate, ( NY 394) Chautauqua. Open daily 9-5, year-round.


Chautauqua Suites Meeting and Expo Center (716-269-7829; 215 West Lake Road, Mayville.


Webb’s Lake Resort (716-753-2161; 115 West Lake Road, Mayville.



From Rochester take the New York State Thruway (I-90) west to exit 60 (Westfield). Follow Route 394 about ten miles east to Mayville.