SKOWHEGAN — An Ice Bar outside of The Miller’s Table restaurant at the Somerset Grist Mill in Skowhegan is being assembled using blocks of ice cut by hand by an Amish farmer in Palmyra and bartered with mill ownership in exchange for oat hulls that will be used for livestock feed.

Yes, an ice bar.

Amber Lambke of Maine Grains stands on Tuesday beside oak bourbon barrels that will be used for an ice bar at The Miller’s Table in Skowhegan during the three-day Somerset SnowFest this weekend.

It’s a bar and seating made from ice, where drinks are sluiced down icy luges into the waiting glasses of patrons during this weekend’s three-day Somerset SnowFest.

“We knew we would need large blocks of ice for this project, so naturally we thought of our Amish neighbors,” said Grist Mill owner Amber Lambke, chief executive director of Maine Grains. “Isaac Hostetler, of Palmyra, and his family were planning to cut ice from their pond to fill their ice house for the year, and they kindly cut some extra blocks for the bar. It was Isaac’s wish to barter for the ice, so Maine Grains traded oat hulls that he’ll use to feed his animals.”

The ice bar is set to open at 11 a.m. Friday and again at 9 a.m. Saturday as part of the three-day Somerset SnowFest, a collaboration of Main Street Skowhegan and Lake George Regional Park. The events expand the annual Lake George Winter Carnival, with the popular box sled derby and ice fishing derby, to include dog sled rides in Coburn Park, ice skating at the Skowhegan Rec Center, snow tubing at Eaton Mountain and the Northeast’s only equestrian skijoring competition. SnowFest, now in its inaugural year, promises activities in Skowhegan, Canaan and Madison.

The big event of the weekend is Skijor Skowhegan, which is a team, time-trial race, where a horse and rider pull a snowboarder or alpine skier down a 1,000-foot track of gates and three 2-foot jumps. Skijor Skowhegan is the only equestrian skijoring race in the Northeast. Competitors will compete for cash and other prizes.

Skijoring means “ski driving” in the Norwegian language and is a popular sport in the Scandinavian countries.

Amish farmer Isaac Hostetler uses ice tongs to haul blocks of ice he cut from a pond at his farm in Palmyra on Wednesday. The ice will be used for an ice bar during Somerset SnowFest this weekend.

Many of the activities are free, and some require advanced registration, which can be done online at somersetsnowfest.org/schedule/.

The ice bar is being built by Richard Cox with additional 300-pound blocks and big ice panels in coordination with Getchell Brothers Inc., a fourth generation Maine family, veteran owned and operated ice manufacturing company.

Lambke said the restaurant has been buying vegetables during the summer months from Isaac Hostetler, who purchased the former Estes Farm in Palmyra. There are

About 30 Amish families have settled on farmland in Somerset and Waldo counties over the past few years. The Amish men, in the past, have declined to be interviewed for newspaper stories.

Lambke said that because the Amish don’t drive motor vehicles, Hostetler has a neighbor who brings him to town to pick up the oat hulls. In turn, grist mill employees go out to the farm to get the freshly cut ice blocks.

Emily Eckhardt, the new chief of staff at Maine Grains, went out there recently with a grist mill employee whose family once owned the Estes farm and retrieved 15 ice blocks at about 100 pounds a piece.

“Isaac loaded them all up for us. He used tongs. He’s a strong man,” Eckhardt said. “Then we unloaded them when we got back here.”

The ice bar is being constructed under the pergola — a roofless gazebo — in front of the restaurant and into the parking lot, where there will be string lights and  fire pits with homemade marshmallows from The Bankery. Large, empty bourbon barrels from Allagash Brewery will provide a perimeter for the bar area. There also will be snowman building Friday afternoon for families, with Maine Grains graham crackers for s’mores, Lambke said.

Amber Lambke, left, of Maine Grains, and Emily Eckhardt, an organizer of the Somerset SnowFest, sit on large blocks of ice behind The Miller’s Table restaurant in Skowhegan on Wednesday. The ice will be used for an ice bar during the three-day event this weekend.

Lambke said the ice bar is being sponsored by Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy. Offerings will include cocktails featuring the brandy, now listed as the second most popular drink in Maine after Fireball Cinnamon Whisky.

The Miller’s Table will be serving pulled brisket sliders, chili, wood-fired pizza and beef kababs. Food will be served inside and outside, with craft beers available as well.

“The ice bar is actually a bar built out of ice,” Lambke said. “We have little frozen cocktail glasses, shot glasses made of ice. We’ll have fancy molds made of ice. We’ll have an ice luge where you pour your drink down a luge into your cocktail glass and chill your drink on the way down.”

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
[email protected]
Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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