Ice carousel record-holders seek to best themselves as part of fundraising event

Organizers of the fourth annual Sunny Zwilling Memorial Ice Carousel Extravaganza (or I.C.E. Fest) attempted to break their own record for the world’s largest ice carousel during the two-day festival that started Saturday, Feb. 13, in Little Falls.

Volunteers Jeff Pfannenstein (left) Mark Zwilling, John Osmek and Dana LaVoi push a slab of ice under the ice shelf Saturday, Feb. 13, while building the world's largest ice carousel. The Sunny Zwilling Ice Carousel Extravaganza is a two day event each year on Green Prairie Fish lake near Randall. The family held the world's record 10.1 acre rotating carousel in 2020 until this year when the family attempted a 12 acre disc to break their own record.. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Record-holders for the world’s largest ice carousel attempted to best themselves during a two-day festival in Little Falls aimed at raising money for children in need.

But while the frigid weather thwarted efforts to budge the carousel during the fourth annual Sunny Zwilling Memorial Ice Carousel Extravaganza (or I.C.E. Fest), the event was successful in collecting cash for two Little Falls school programs.

“We got it to spin about 70 feet Saturday — moving about 50 million pounds — but it didn’t make a full rotation,” said Chuck Zwilling, president of the Pay it Forward Foundation, a Little Falls-based nonprofit that hosted the event.


Despite the cold temperatures, Carl Williams smiles while holding Larry Williams in his lap on an outdoor merry-go-round Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Sunny Zwilling Memorial Ice Carousel Extravaganza on Green Prairie Fish Lake near Randall. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Other activities announced as part of I.C.E. Fest that began Saturday, Feb. 13, at Green Prairie Fish Lake included curling, log rolling, spearfishing, dog sled rides, sleigh rides, ice fishing, figure skating, igloo-building, snowshoeing and more.

“But we did not enhance our own world record,” he said of their own Guinness World Record of a 749-foot diameter ice carousel in 2020. “I’m fine. I’m over it. I’m not crushed or anything.”

The fundraiser benefited Flyer Pride Packs, a weekend food program for students facing food insecurity, and Kare Kloset, a resource for students struggling to have basic needs met at home. The annual event raised about $15,000 last year and hopes were to raise at least that much with this year’s event, according to Zwilling’s daughter Becca Ruegemer, an I.C.E. Fest coordinator.

Becca Ruegemer (left), Brian Zwilling and Dana LaVoi clear the channel for the ice carousel Saturday, Feb. 13, on Green Prairie Fish Lake near Randall. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“I’m gonna guess we’ll have at least $15,000 to donate for Flyer Pride Packs and Kare Kloset, so, you know, not exactly a failure when you can donate that much money,” Zwilling said of the free-will donations.


The Pay It Forward Foundation/I.C.E. Fest has donated more than $36,000 to help feed hungry children since its conception in 2018, and more than 65 Little Falls area businesses have come together to help sponsor this year’s event, but the extreme cold played a huge factor this year.

“You had no time to kind of fine-tune the cuts or anything like that before it froze up again,” Zwilling said.

The Zwilling family holds the current world record for the largest ice carousel. This year the family attempted to break their own record at the Sunny Zwilling Memorial Ice Carousel Extravaganza Feb. 13 and 14 on Green Prairie Fish Lake near Randall. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

The ice cutters used two “chain saw chariots” designed and built by Ruegemer’s husband Mike and operated by him and his friend Bo Meyer.

“Becca’s husband, who’s a respiratory therapist by day and kind of a mechanical genius at night, created these,” Zwilling said of the chain saws affixed to a wheeled base. “They cut like a champ. They were self-propelled. They were actually pushed by like vintage snowblowers. ”


Dan Zwilling (left) uses a chain saw to clear an ice pinch point while his brother Brian Zwilling and Jerry Lilyerd clears ice from the channel cut Saturday, Jan . 13, on Green Prairie Fish Lake during the quest to break the Zwilling family's 2020 world record rotating ice carousel. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Ice cutters were out Saturday recutting the ice channel that separated the carousel from the rest of the frozen lake in an effort to get the disc spinning.

“On Friday, we cut and removed all of the ice in two hours, which is, quite frankly, a world record also. … And if somebody would’ve told me they cut all of this in four man-hours, I probably would have called them a liar,” Zwilling said.


Four electric trolling motors spaced about 30 feet each from the disc’s edge were used in this past weekend’s effort to make the carousel completely spin to break the world record.

Chuck Zwilling (left) works with Jerry Lilyerd Friday, Feb.12, to assemble the four solar powered trolling motors that will supply the thrust for the ice carousel during the Sunny Zwilling Memorial Ice Carousel Extravaganza. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“We pushed about 245,000 pounds of ice under the ice to the outside, so that it doesn’t create a problem,” Zwilling said. “Two years ago, we started at noon on Friday, and by, like, one o’clock the next day, it stopped spinning, so when Mother Nature just decides you’re done, that’s it.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write mostly features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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