Frozen fortress rising in Lake Geneva

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  • Erica Pennington/Beloit Daily News Lake Geneva's Riviera Beach is home to Ice Castles, a fortress built completely out of icicles, this winter. The attraction currently has an anticipated opening date of Jan. 10, 2019.

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    Erica Pennington/Beloit Daily News The ice castle formations are built with hand-placed icicles.

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    Erica Pennington/Beloit Daily News Lake Geneva Ice Castles site manager Jesse Stone uses a Toro Dingo machine to crush up ice to make a walking path inside the frozen attraction on Riviera Beach.

  • Erica Pennington/Beloit Daily News Lake Geneva's Riviera Beach is home to Ice Castles, a fortress built completely out of icicles, this winter. The attraction currently has an anticipated opening date of Jan. 10, 2019.

  • 1

    Erica Pennington/Beloit Daily News The ice castle formations are built with hand-placed icicles.

  • 2

    Erica Pennington/Beloit Daily News Lake Geneva Ice Castles site manager Jesse Stone uses a Toro Dingo machine to crush up ice to make a walking path inside the frozen attraction on Riviera Beach.

LAKE GENEVA - A little bit of wintertime whimsy is coming to Riviera Beach in Lake Geneva.

Ice Castles, an attraction built completely out of icicles, is getting larger by the day and soon will open.

"Ice Castles was looking for their home in the Midwest, and we believe this partnership will hold really good things," said Joe Tominaro of VISIT Lake Geneva. "It's going to be epic."

Located in the heart of downtown Lake Geneva, Riviera Beach is a favorite gathering spot year-round. Ice Castles is expected to open Jan. 10, 2019 and draw large crowds.

There are only five other Ice Castles currently open. They are located in Utah, Minnesota, Colorado, New Hampshire and Alberta, Canada.

"There's an excitement about town and any time we put something out there online about the ice castles it seems to go viral," Tominaro said.

Site work on Lake Geneva's frozen fortress began in September. Utah native Jesse Stone has been overseeing the construction process.

"We're kind of like the circus in that we're a mobile entertainment company," Stone said. "We will eventually have 70 to 90 local people working with us."

It took a bit of experimentation to get work started on the sandy beach, Stone said, but Ice Castles began to really rise at the half-acre site in November.

Each cold night since then, water is sprayed from sprinkler heads installed throughout the castle. The water falls over the top of metal racks and freezes.

The result is approximately 5,000 to 10,000 crystal clear icicles that are hand-harvested in the morning and then get strategically placed to build formations.

"What you see changes every day," Stone said. "Our goal is to make Ice Castles be like the frozen version of going to Disneyland."

Once finished, the Lake Geneva ice castle will have tunnels, mazes, fountains and even giant ice slides that are big enough for adults to play on.

Around 120 LED lights also have been frozen inside the castle and those who visit the attraction at night will be greeted to a beautiful glowing display.

"There's nothing else like this in the world and it's really showcasing how beautiful nature is," Stone said.

Lake Geneva's castle is currently about 10 feet high, but it is expected to hit 30-35 feet by the end of the season.

The outcome depends on Mother Nature, Stone said, noting that visitors might want to see the attraction a couple times to see how it changes.

"Running a business like this that is completely nature-dependent really requires a lot of faith; especially considering we've seen days with a 42 degree difference between them," Stone said. "You have to believe."

Those who are interested in visiting Ice Castles should check www.icecastles.com for days and times of operation. Tickets start at $15.95 for adults age 12 and up, and $10.95 for children age 4 to 11 on weekdays. Weekend rates are slightly higher.

It is highly recommend that all visitors pre-purchase their tickets, as the attraction is expected to sell out on many nights.

"Also remember that your experience is going to be better if you dress to play in the snow," Stone added. "Wear boots and enjoy seeing what you'd normally only experience if you went to a glacier."

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