The Mayville Ice Castle: A Festival in Mayville, NY
President's Day Weekend Winter Festival
The Mayville Ice Castle Festival
In the small town of Mayville, New York, President's Day weekend brings a festive atmosphere of winter celebration. The Mayville Ice Castle Festival (officially coined the President's Day Weekend Winter Festival) takes place alongside Chautauqua Lake in Western New York, and is filled with fun activities for children and adults. The Winter Festival will take place on February 15-17, 2019.
The Mayville ICE (Ice Castle Extravaganza) Festival contains an ice castle, polar bear swim event, ice skating on the lake (weather permitting), a kid's sledding track, a chili cookoff, snowmobile rides, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and more. My family and I try to make it to the festival every year.
The Polar Bear Swim
In order for the Polar Bear Swim event to take place, ice must be removed from the lake surface. The ice is often over a foot thick during the month of February, and the water temperature is just above freezing at the time of the swim. The depth of the Polar Bear swimming hole is 4-7 feet, so participants get a full-body soaking after cannon-balling or diving into the icy depths. Participants must register prior to taking part in the Polar Bear swim activity by filling out a form on the official Mayville President's Day Weekend Winter Festival website.
Mayville Ice Castle
The Ice Castle
The Mayville ice castle is formed by cutting blocks of ice from Chautauqua Lake. Chainsaws are used to cut each 22" x 48" block, and a pole is used to move the cut blocks along the surface of the water. An ice hook attached to a winch lifts each ice block out of the lake onto a chute, depositing the ice blocks on land near the ice castle.
A crane lifts each ice block onto the ice castle, where volunteers position and cement the ice blocks into place. It takes approximately 900 man-hours to complete the Mayville ice castle, and the labor force is composed of volunteers from the local community. While the ice castle dimensions change slightly every year, in 2010 the Mayville ice castle was 12 feet high along the outer walls, with a 25 foot high central tower.
A grand lighting ceremony is held the first evening of the Mayville President's Day Weekend Winter Festival event. The castle is lit up with an automated light show, which includes several different colors.
Building the 2011 Mayville Ice Castle
Activities for Families with Children
There are many activities to delight families with children of all ages. The area around the ice castle is often decorated with a showcase of ice carvings and snowmen, which infants and toddlers enjoy greatly.
A kid's sled track is placed into the side of a massive pile of snow, allowing children to careen along a bobsled-like track around the side of the hill. Children who would like to participate in sledding activities must bring their own toboggans and sleds.
A cold water rescue demonstration will thrill preschoolers and older children, as the Dewittville Volunteer Fire Department uses a large hovercraft to demonstrate the rescue of a person trapped in cold water (this event takes place immediately after the Polar Bear Plunge event).
Horse-drawn sleigh rides are fun for the entire family, and take riders around the perimeter of Lakeside Park in Mayville. Bundle up and let the kids experience an old-time tradition at the Ice Castle Festival!
Snowmobile rides are also available for children and adults, for an additional fee. Jr. Snowmobiles and full-size snowmobiles are available for rides around a circular track. This event is sponsored by the Chautauqua Snowmobile Club and is an excellent opportunity to learn about the sport!
Sleigh Rides at the ICE Festival
Sporting Activities at the Mayville Ice Castle Festival
The sporting activities change on a yearly basis, and are listed on the official website. Past activities have included:
- Ice fishing demonstrations on Lake Chautauqua
- Ice skating on Lake Chautauqua
- Polar Bear Swim
- Ice Hockey
- Dodgeball tournament
Ice Fishing on Chautauqua Lake
Mayville Ice Castle Synopsis
The 2010 Mayville Ice Castle Lighting Ceremony
Food and Facilities
As the Mayville Ice Castle Festival takes place during the cold month of February, several sheltered locations are available for people to warm up after having some wintry fun. Large vendor and food tents are set up with heating and tables. Apples with caramel and whipped cream, fried dough, and other treats are available along with more substantial lunch and dinner fare. Various items are also for sale, from local artisans and craft vendors.
Restrooms are available in the Lakeside Park facilities, which are plentiful and clean. A playground is also available, so if the weather is cooperative, little ones can burn off some energy while their parents have a snack!
Proper Clothing for Visitors
Visitors to the Mayville Ice Castle should dress appropriately, Nearly all of the events are outdoors, and the weather is extremely variable in February (ranging from sub-freezing to a balmy 50°F). The lake is often a windy location, even when frozen - snow pants and ski jackets are recommended. Mittens and hats are a must! Be sure to dress small children warmly, and stop in the warm tents when needed.
Parking for the Ice Castle
Parking is readily available in pay lots alongside Rte. 394. The charges will vary, but generally run about $5 per carload. If parking across the highway, take care when crossing the potentially slick or ice-covered highway.
Location of the Mayville Ice Castle Festival
The location of the Mayville Ice Castle Festival is along the northern section of Chautauqua Lake, at Lakeside Park in Mayville, NY.
© 2011 Leah Lefler