Big Freeze reprises popular offerings, features some new events

Published 10:23 pm Friday, February 1, 2019

While the weather already gave Albert Lea one big freeze, the city is preparing for another.

The 10th annual Big Freeze will not include additional activities downtown, as Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Susie Petersen said last year’s downtown activities were added to capitalize on the Super Bowl, with which the Big Freeze shared a weekend.

Keeping the activities in one place without a break scheduled into the timeline also means families can stay at the activities without having to go home and then back out again, Petersen said.

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Popular returning events include the Blue Ice Plunge and pictures with Elsa, both of which Petersen said are big draws. Also returning are the Big Freeze Ice Bowl disc golf tournament, games hosted by Albert Lea Parks and Recreation, the chili cookoff and a fat tire bike demo. Additionally, an ice-fishing contest has returned after a few years off the schedule.

Some new offerings dot the list of activities, too.

“It’s good to change things up, too,” Petersen said.

This is the first year the Big Freeze will include a pond hockey tournament, organized by Albert Lea High School varsity girls’ hockey coach Josh Funk. He said he decided to organize the pond hockey tournament after attending the Big Freeze last year.

“(I) realized there was an opportunity to use the ice a little bit better — the lake,” Funk said.

Petersen said pond hockey has been a goal to bring to the Big Freeze for a while, but couldn’t get an organizer or sponsor. Both Petersen and Funk cited pond hockey tournaments in the Twin Cities that bring in many teams.

“We want to bring in people from the outside,” Petersen said.

The tournament includes four divisions: Squirt (U10), PeeWee (U12), Bantam/high school and adult (18+). Teams can sign up ahead of time at Albert Lea Family Y, Albert Lea City Arena or the CVB.

“(We’re) just hoping to get a solid turnout,” Funk said. “Get people, you know, out there playing — you know, maybe even adults that don’t necessarily play all that much. It’s just kind of a fun atmosphere to be out at Edgewater.”

Teams are three on three on a rink about half the size of a normal rink. Funk said the plan is to have three or four rinks out on the ice. Each game includes two 15-minute halves, with no offside calls.

The setup, which is smaller and a slightly different structure than traditional hockey, encourages creativity and hockey that’s a little more free-playing, the coach said.

“It’s just a different way to experience hockey,” Funk said.

Also new this year are dog sleds, which bring animals to the party in place of horse-drawn sleigh rides of previous years. Petersen said the horses were already booked for an event in Waseca.

HHH Ranch out of Cannon Falls will have dog sleds, equipment and a musher on hand to ask questions and give demonstrations.

“I was a dogsled guide in the Boundary Waters years back and thought that if I could reach out to some connections and bring something like this to the area, it would be a big hit,” event co-sponsor and Provenio Consulting owner Brad Kramer said in a press release.

But the main purpose of the event, Petersen said, is still to fill food shelves at the Salvation Army and the Ecumenical Food Pantry. She estimates the average yearly haul from the Big Freeze is 800 to 1,000 pounds of food.



7 a.m. to noon: Shinefest breakfast, First Lutheran Church

Start the day with pancakes

Sponsored by Shinefest

10 a.m.: Big Freeze Ice Bowl disc golf tournament, Edgewater Bay

Registration from 9 to 10 a.m.

Fee: non-perishable food item

10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Pond hockey tournament (three on three), Edgewater Bay

Men, women and co-ed teams placed in age brackets

$50 per team (must sign waiver)

Registration forms available at City Arena, CVB, Albert Lea Family Y or call or email Josh Funk at 651-492-2635 or

Cash and merchandise prizes

Participants receive free sample of wine at Three Oak Winery

Sponsored by Rink Systems

11 a.m. to noon: Pictures with Elsa, Edgewater Bay Pavilion

Sponsored by The Meraki Studios

11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Movin’ & Groovin’ fun, Edgewater Bay

Snow activities: sledding, snow castle building and snow coloring spray

Indoor activities: face painting, crafts and games

Sponsored by Albert Lea Parks & Rec

Noon: Chili cook-off, Edgewater Bay Pavilion

Fee: $7 per person ($5 with non-perishable food item)

Hot dogs and brats for purchase and prize drawings

Cash prizes for first, second and third place

All proceeds go to First Presbyterian Church youth, taking a mission trip to Jamaica in 2020

Contact Leean Dulitz to enter chili at 507-383-5357

Sponsored by First Presbyterian Church youth group

Noon to 3 p.m.: Fat tire bike demo, Edgewater Bay

Try out a fat tire bike on the snow

Sponsored by Broadway Bike Co.

Noon to 3 p.m.: Dog sleds

See the sleds and equipment, demonstrations and meet the dogs

Sponsored by Provenio Consulting and It’s Worth It Massage and Wellness Studio

1 to 2 p.m.: Blue Ice Plunge, Edgewater Bay

Fee: non-perishable food item

Heated changing tents

Sponsored by Albert Lea Fire Department

1:30 to 3 p.m.: Albert Lea Anglers ice fishing contest, Edgewater Bay

Fee: $5 per hole

All ages welcome

Prizes for largest fish


Bring your portable ice shelter

Sponsored by Albert Lea Anglers

3 to 9 p.m.: Wine tasting, games and food, Three Oak Winery

Food from Geneva Bar and Grill

Giant Jenga, small Jenga, games

10 percent discount on bottle of wine purchases

Wine tasting: six tastings for $8

112 on Broadway

Serving drinks during the day at Edgewater Pavilion

Live music downtown at night

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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