Ice Harvest Festival will celebrate historical wintertime traditions

| 15 Feb 2012 | 11:28

Monroe — Using authentic harvesting tools like a 54-inch-long two-handed saw from its vast collection, Museum Village will re- enact something that was commonplace and necessary more than 60 years ago in the Hudson Valley: Harvesting ice from a lake. This informal experiment will be part of the Ice Harvest Festival slated for Sunday, Feb. 19, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the lake in Arrow Park, located at 1061 Orange County Turnpike in Monroe. The event, hosted by Museum Village and Arrow Park, will also include representation from the Orange County Council of Arts, Wallkill River School and local artists and farmers. “By demonstrating such early technologies, in this case hand tool harvesting, we hope to demonstrate for young minds and recall to older ones how rural America lived off the land,” said Dr. Robert Schmick, the director of Museum Village. The plan is to cut blocks of ice and ceremoniously transport them on a large wooden sled, brought from Maine for the purpose, up the hill to a large ice house still preserved at Arrow Park. Once the seventh largest U.S. industry At the beginning of the 19th century, ice harvesting was the seventh largest industry in the United States. The Hudson and nearby Greenwood Lake were sites for large commercial harvesting. Arrow Park Lake was also routinely harvested. Dairy farms in the area undertook this winter chore to keep their milk from spoiling and everyone had blocks delivered regularly to their homes for their ice boxes before electricity was available “That was as late as the 1940s in some places,” Schmick said in his e-mail outlining the event. “My great aunt recalled how my great grandfather harvested ice in Pine Island for his dairy, and the neighbors would show up to help him back in the 1930s. This is a dynamic we want to re-create; people coming together and engaging in a common task drawn from our agricultural heritage. “We especially welcome those people who have first-hand experiences, or information about, ice harvesting in the area, as we would appreciate you sharing these with us,” the museum director added. “We also anticipate that this will be an opportunity to share in other wintertime traditions in Orange County,” Schmick said. “What did or do farmers do in the winter? Storytelling is one thing, and this will be integral to the day as will the opportunity to share information about other winter traditions on the farm like cold cellars, root vegetables, jam and jelly making, canning and seed catalogue perusing.” Essential information There will be a warming center in the heated pavilion on the grounds. There will be food, hot drink, children's nature activities and entertainment. Admission is $5 per person to cover the cost of the event. For further information, visit, contact Museum Village at 845-782-8248. For information about Arrow Park, which will be open next spring and summer for swimming, fishing, special and community events, lodging and hiking, call 845-545-0520.