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Big Freeze activities to allow for fun and safety

Albert Lea’s annual winter festival The Big Freeze is moving forward for this weekend with some of the favorite activities from years past and some new activities, too.

Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau and Albert Lea Main Street Program Executive Director Holly Karsjens said this year’s event is the largest they’ve had in terms of activities that people are invited to go out and do. Though several events were not able to take place because of COVID-19, she hoped people would get out and enjoy some of the new activities.

Events kicked off Monday with a medallion hunt, sponsored by the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber Executive Director Shari Jenson said the chamber is running the hunt a little differently this year, hoping to help local businesses in the process. Rather than giving the actual clues, each day the chamber will announce information about the “keepers” of the clues.

Also on Monday, the do-it-yourself snow village started at Fountain Lake Park, Academy Park and Lakeview parks, where people are invited to build a snowman and take part in snow painting.

The remainder of the events will take place Friday or Saturday.

A scavenger hunt is expected to take place on Friday and Saturday, where the more things people do on the list, the more chances they have to win a prize. Karsjens said the scavenger hunt also has some things on it that people can do at home if people do not want to leave their home.

There will be a shop local mitten selfie challenge taking place all over town, in which people are invited to take a selfie with a “Shop Local” mitten and then post the photo to the Big Freeze Facebook event page to be entered into a prize drawing.

Ice skate rental will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday at Academy and Lakeview parks and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Academy Park. Skate rental will be $1 through the Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Department.

Sledding and s’mores are slated from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Academy Park. People would bring their own sleds, and limited s’mores kits will be available.

Starting at 10 a.m. and going until 2 p.m., a fat tire bike demo will take place at Broadway Bike Co., and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., First Presbyterian will host a Krispy Kreme, cocoa and coffee drive-thru sale at the church as a fundraiser for the church’s youth group. Doughnuts will sell for $1 each or $9 for a box, and cocoa or coffee will be $2. Cash or check will be accepted.

Elsa visits are slated from 1 to 3 p.m. at Whimzy Toys & Party. People should schedule their own private visits through the store.

Also on Saturday afternoon, the Albert Lea Anglers will host an ice fishing contest from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at City Beach. Cost to participate is $5 per hole. There will be prizes for the largest fish caught, as well as raffles. All ages are welcome and people are encouraged to bring their portable ice shelters.

Lastly, the Albert Lea Fire Rescue is hosting a coloring contest that people can enter with a nonperishable food item from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Karsjens encouraged people to follow social distancing guidelines and to wear masks when social distancing is not an option to ensure that more activities like this can continue for the community.

She said people should watch The Big Freeze event page or the Albert Lea Main Street Program page in the case of any changes.