Things to Do: Ice Harvesting in Brookfield

January 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Celebrations, Outdoors

Brookfield floating bridge in winter Photo: Courtesy of John Hughes, photographer.

Post-event note: It is 1 pm as I am writing this and would like to alert readers that the event has ended early, as the ice was not safe for competitions today…
Saturday January 31 – 10:30 am to 2 pm – It’s ice harvesting in Brookfield, Vermont. It is the 30th year that this traditional event takes place and it is one of the last ice harvest festivals in New England. It is also one of the Top Ten Winter 2008/09 Events, according to the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. There will be demonstrations and competitions, ice cutting, ice sculpting, dog sledding, food and more. We are trying to get more information on the exact timing of the various events. Stay Posted! And for more details, you can read the 2001 The Herald article which describes nicely how the ice is prepared for harvesting for several weeks and how it is carried to the ice house.
We had lots of fresh snow in the past couple of days, so the scenery should be spectacular, but dress warm because it is going to be on the chilly side (14F; 0F with the wind chill factor). We’ll definitely be there with our camera!
Note: If you are interested in the history of ice harvesting, don’t miss the ice house at the Justin Morrill Homestead, a Vermont historic site in Strafford, and its exhibit on ice harvesting, including some interesting old photographs. The site is not open in the winter though.

Related article: Brookfield: its Unique Floating Bridge
More information on Brookfield Ice Harvest Festival


Brookfield: its Unique Floating Bridge

Floating bridge - Brookfield 
As you travel south from Montpelier, on route 14, don’t miss the historic floating bridge in Brookfield on route 65. The village is nice and quiet, just like it was in the 19th century, with several houses of interest, including the oldest continually operating library (1791), and of course its unique bridge! First built in 1820, 330 feet in length and supported by 380 barrels (originally wooden barrels), it is said to be the only floating bridge east of the Mississippi. The story goes that one winter a resident had drowned trying to cross the frozen Sunset Lake and that the town had decided to lay down logs all chained together across the pond… When spring came, it simply became a floating bridge, later supported by barrels. Today, if planks and barrels have been replaced several times, the bridge is still standing. Used by both pedestrians and cars until the summer of 2007, it is now closed to car traffic, but you can still get across the lake by foot, get your feet a little wet if you want, and watch the few fishermen trying their luck for trout. Or if you come on the last Saturday of January, you will be able to enjoy one of the last ice harvest festivals in New England, and its ice cutting, ice sculpting, sledding and more!