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Traditional Ice Harvest Festival canceled due to mild weather

The popular Millers Mills Ice Harvest Festival was cancelled this year, due to record warmth this past January.

Posted: Feb 3, 2020 6:31 PM
Updated: Feb 4, 2020 9:53 AM

MILLERS MILLS, N.Y. -- The Millers Mills Annual Ice Harvest Festival was canceled this year, after record warmth in January left the Unadilla Lake with only six inches of ice. 

Harvest organizers say that's not thick enough to stand on. Some parts of the lake are also melted completely.

When the grange workers measured the ice this year, they said it was six inches at the thickest spots, but needs to be at least eight inches thick to have a safe ice harvest.

This isn't the first time the lake has had a shortage of ice. Fourth generation member of the Millers Mills Grange, Donna Rubin, who is also the Town Historian for the Town of Columbia, says there is no way to plan around uncooperative weather.

"It's very disappointing that four out of the last five years have been cancelled. And because of all the arrangements that go into setting up the event, we can't really have, well we won't call it a rain day but, an ice day," said Rubin.

Rubin says that ice harvesting has been a tradition since the 1800s. Local farmers would harvest the ice for their ice box to preserve food and milk. Nowadays, the ice harvested from the festival is used for graduation parties, family reunions, and events during the summer. Hopefully the weather cooperates next year for the ice harvest in February.

Overall, this past January was in the top 10 warmest on record. More than half of January had temperatures well above normal for this time of year. This includes 21 days with above normal temperatures, 15 of which had temperatures 10 degrees or more above normal. This is why the ice growth was inhibited, but hopefully next year brings better results for the ice harvest.

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