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Brothers help make Ice Fest a hard water success

The Breezy Point Ice Fest committee has its first meeting in September or October, months before the event itself, and before ice has even formed over the bay where the event is held.

Brothers Michael and Justin Wallin, both of Breezy Point, co-chair Ice Fest for the third year this weekend, Jan. 3-4.

On Dec. 27, the Breezy Point bay on Pelican Lake had 11.5-12 inches of good ice, the Wallins said. The event needs 14-16 inches, and they’re confident they’ll get it. They’d planned to plow part of the bay so that more ice had a chance to form without the insulating layer of snow.

While many events can happen without 14-16 inches, that much ice allows the sheriff to sign off on snowmobile radar runs, which are a huge draw, the Wallins said. The radar runs are coordinated by the Pequot Lakes Brush Pilots.

Professional snowmobilers who have come to test their speed have been clocked at up to 160 miles per hour in just a quarter-mile stretch of track.

If the radar runs are a go, the number of people out on the bay easily doubles. If the ice is thick enough for the radar runs, it’s also thick enough for hot air balloon rides.

The Wallins remember two years ago, when it was 42 degrees and there was very little snow. It made pond hockey a challenge, among other issues.

“If you lost a puck it’d go halfway across the bay,” Justin said.

Last year, though, was pretty much perfect with 27-degree weather and no wind. That’s what they’re hoping for again this year.

The Wallins said the Ice Fest committee has a great volunteer group, and everyone’s responsible for a different aspect of the festival, whether it’s radar runs, kids’ ice fishing, pond hockey or hot air balloon rides.

Michael said his favorite Ice Fest events are the radar runs and the kids’ fishing activity.

Simply Outdoor Experiences coordinates the kids’ fishing event, which this year will have an Olympic theme. The crew will be out from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with equipment so kids can go fishing and learn about ice fishing safety.

Last year, Michael said, every kid caught a fish, and many didn’t want to leave.

Justin and Michael’s Ice Fest experience begins Friday, Jan. 3, with setup for the event and making sure everyone has what they need to make the event a success. On Saturday, Jan. 4, they’ll be on the ice from before the start until the fireworks are done that night.

Each has his own reason to enjoy Ice Fest.

“It’s great to see everyone out there having fun,” Michael said.

Justin enjoys sharing with people what Breezy Point has to offer.

The two didn’t grow up in the area, but visited frequently as their family has a cabin on Little Pelican Lake.

Due to their father’s job, the family moved around a lot. They lived in several states, including Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota.

“We’re one of the few Wallins that moved away,” Justin said jovially. They came back, though.

“It’s always been home up here,” Michael said. The two have been deer hunting in the area since they were 12, and some years visited 13 times a year, even when they lived as far away as Nebraska.

Today, Michael and Justin are general managers for Pelican Square and Pine Peaks in Breezy Point.

“I love our four seasons. There’s fun activities to do in all of them,” Justin said.

Michael and Justin said that on the day of Ice Fest, they’ve seen some people who have come from out of state and some who are wearing blinky buttons from 10 years ago.

“These are the things we live for up here in the winter,” Justin said of Ice Fest.

For more information on Ice Fest and a schedule of events, see page 4.