Programs At Hanford Mills Museum

Ice Harvest Festival

The Ice Harvest Festival is held the first Saturday in February

Saturday, February 5, 2022
10 am to 3 pm

Plans are underway for the 33rd annual Ice Harvest Festival at Hanford Mills Museum, the region’s coolest tradition.

In the days before mechanical refrigeration, ice harvesting was an essential wintertime activity. The ice harvested in the winter would be used to keep food and agricultural products cold in the warmer months.

“To farmers, ice was a winter crop and a way to generate income in the winter,” says Liz Callahan, the executive director of Hanford Mills Museum. “For Hanford Mills, it is an opportunity to offer the community a unique winter event with a hands-on history lesson.”

When the ice is thick enough, visitors can borrow ice cleats from the Museum and walk on the frozen Mill Pond and use an ice saw to cut ice. The ice blocks, which typically weigh 50 pounds, are then transferred to the ice house by bobsled. The ice is stacked in the ice house, insulated with sawdust from the Mill. The ice will be used to make ice cream in the summer and stay frozen until the fall. 

The SUNY Delhi Hospitality Center Ice Carving Team will create sculptures out of ice. There will also be blacksmithing demonstrations and local vendors and exhibitors. Additional activities will be added as they are confirmed.

No Soup BuffetPeople harvesting ice
There will not be a hot soup buffet at this year’s Ice Harvest Festival. With continuing COVID concerns, there is not enough space for large groups of people to gather indoors at the Museum. There will be hot chocolate, coffee, and tea.

Check in for latest conditions
With Ice Harvest, there are always contingency plans depending on the depth and strength of the ice. For the February 5 event, Hanford Mills will also follow CDC and public health guidelines and adapt the event accordingly. Ice updates will be posted on beginning in mid-January.

“The opportunity to experience an authentic ice harvest really resonates with people,” says Callahan. “Historically, ice harvests were a time when the community came together, and that same spirit of community is evident at our Ice Harvest Festivals. We appreciate visitors’ understanding as we streamline the event to reflect safety and ongoing COVID concerns.”

Callahan said that the ice must be at least eight inches thick for visitors to be allowed on the frozen Mill Pond. In the past ten years, ice depth has ranged from 7-20 inches. 

No photography allowed on the ice
Taking photos, with a camera or cellphone, will not be permitted while standing on the ice. People need to give their full attention to being on the ice, especially those who are attending with young children.


Here are scenes from past Ice Harvest Festivals.

The Ice Harvest Festival is sponsored by the SUNY Delhi Hospitality Management Department,  WSKG. and Five Star Subaru.  The Ice Harvest Festival is also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. Hanford Mills Museum is very grateful for their generous support.

Learn more about Ice Harvesting
For the virtual Ice Harvest in February 2021, Hanford Mills Museum partnered with the Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta to create three 4-5 minute videos that explore the ice harvesting processexplain the science of ice and ice houses, and assess ice in terms of a changing climate

Winter’s Coolest Crop Webinar
Find out more about the history of ice harvesting in the Northeast, and how Hanford Mills celebrates this historic community tradition in this February 2021 webinar with Andrew Robichaud, Assistant Professor of History at Boston University and Hanford Mills Museum’s Liz Callahan and Kajsa Harley. Robichaud’s book-in-progress, tentatively titled On Ice: Transformations in American Life, is a history of climate, ice, and the ice trade in North America, and explores the cultural and economic ice age in nineteenth-century America. Along with a discussion of the history of ice harvesting in the Northeast, they discuss how Hanford Mills celebrates the historic community tradition of ice harvesting. This program was funded in part by a Humanities New York CARES Grant with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the federal CARES Act.