Columbia, N.Y. - The Hamlet of Millers Mills in the Town of Columbia in Herkimer County has become an annual trek for many the second Sunday in February over the years, but not every year, and that's only because of the weather.
The annual Millers Mills Grange Ice Harvest has had to be canceled a number of times in the past several years because the weather leading up to the event hasn't been cold enough to freeze the Millers Mills Pond enough to keep people safe while harvesting the huge blocks of ice.
But not this year. This year here in 2018, the ice was plenty thick enough to keep people safe for the step back in time event.
People who come out and take part get to use old hand tools to cut the ice and replicate what it was like when Andrew Miller, who founded Millers Mills, began harvesting ice from the Millers Mills Pond to keep milk cold throughout the summer months.
On Sunday, the harvesting began at 11:00 A.M. and continued into the afternoon until the ice house was full.
The large blocks of ice were carried to the ice house by horse drawn sleighs.
After refrigeration came in the early 40's, the need for the ice to keep the milk cold went away, but the tradition continued and the ice that was harvested was then used to make ice cream for the annual ice cream social in the summer.
The state came in at one point and said the pond water wasn't safe to use to make ice cream, so now the ice harvesting tradition continues, just for tradition but Ice Harvest Chairman Jeff Huxtable says the ice does usually end up getting used to keep beverages cool, "It’ll be used for graduation parties family reunions and such the summer."
A group of students from Fuure Farmers of American at Mount Markham High School were also in attendance, along with their agriculture teacher at Mount Markham Eric Bugbee, "We have sophomores, juniors and seniors here today, doing anywhere from helping up at the Grange Hall, helping serve food, they're down on the ice and bringing ice out of the water and up the ice house."
Those in charge of the annual event are hoping the weather will cooperate again next year and make it two in a row.
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