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'Fire and ice' to celebrate winter season


OSV offering plethora of programs for all ages



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Old Sturbridge Village historians will demonstrate ice harvesting on Jan. 29 and 30 as part of its annual Fire & Ice Days celebration. (click for larger version)
January 18, 2011
STURBRIDGE — With two feet of snow piled up on the ground and frigid temperatures dominating the region for more than a week, it seems appropriate that Old Sturbridge Village is preparing to host its traditional celebration of the winter season later this month.

Each summer and winter, OSV honors the balanced contrast between hot and cold during its Fire and Ice Days. The "Ice" version of the event will be held on Jan. 29 and 30, and will include an exhibit of antique ice skates and a demonstration of historical ice cutting techniques that were used before the advent of artificial refrigeration devices.

"Ice was very important to the New England economy in those days, and it was shipped all over the country," said OSV Marketing and Communications Coordinator Kate Brandt.

Ice harvesting expert Dennis Picard, of Westfield, will join OSV historians in demonstrating 19th-century ice cutting methods. The ice is first marked into two-foot squares, and then cut with large-toothed ice saws and broken off with heavy iron breaker bars. Next, it was floated toward the shores of lakes and ponds through a lane of open water with pikes before being removed with long iron tongs. Finally, it was loaded onto sleds and transported to railcars that would ship them to other American cities. For international shipping, the ice would be shipped via railcar to port cities, where it would then be loaded onto a cargo ship.

Picard will also inform visitors about several ponds and lakes throughout Massachusetts that were once used to harvest ice, including Sandy Pond in Ayer, Suntaug Lake in Lynnfield, Horn Pond in Woburn, and Wenham Lake in Wenham. The latter became world-famous, particularly among the aristocracy of London, as the ice from Wenham Lake was said to have exceptional purity and an ability to withstand temperature changes with less melting than ice from other locations.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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