Ice dragons — more greeters than guardians — flank the entrance to 2022’s Ice Palace MAZE, the wintry outdoor attraction that opens Saturday at The Zephyr Theatre.
The 10- to12-foot-tall ice sculptures were created on site by professional ice carvers from Minnesota Ice, the St. Paul-based company helping to build the palace. The mythical creatures, prominently placed in the front of the maze and surrounded by mini ice moats, set the tone for this year’s theme: dragons and castles.
Other commissioned ice sculptures — including a life-size knight and a huge throne — will continue the theme. Those sculptures and others will be created during live demos the first few days of the maze’s run. (For more information about sculpting demos, go to icepalacemaze.com.) That icy artwork will be strategically placed throughout the maze, making interesting backdrops for photo ops.
The 10-foot-tall ice-block perimeter walls of the maze are topped with staggered ice blocks, which resemble crenellations crowning many fortress-like castles. A castle tower — half ice blocks, half colored lights — is 20 feet tall.
And of course, there can’t be a castle without a princess and a king. Costumed actors will be on hand to portray Princess Elsa of “Frozen” fame and a snow king. These professionals will not only look the part but also act the part of royalty.
Other costumed actors will roam the maze, adding color, character, and chivalrous assistance if needed. The half-mile maze has more twists this year, with dead ends and loops to challenge visitors. Last year, anxious children called 911 when their tardy mom was “lost” in the maze. This year, “it will be interesting to see if it’s easier to get lost,” said Calyssa Hall, The Zephyr Theatre’s executive director.
Most castles can’t boast having an ice slide, but this one can. The side-by-side slide is taller and longer than last year’s attraction and has been moved away from the maze exit. The new location will be easier to access, especially for the “kids of all ages” who again and again want to cue up to race down the icy chute.
When visitors figure out a maze path, interact with royal characters, slip down the slide, and pose for icy photos, Hall said, “That is what we call immersive, interactive art. The Ice Palace MAZE is an art installation, a perfect tie-in to The Zephyr’s other creative efforts.”
This year’s maze, scheduled to run — weather permitting — through Feb. 20, will be open during another wintery art show. The World Snow Sculpting Championships, featuring artists from around the world, will be held Jan. 81-23 in Lowell Park in downtown Stillwater.
“It’s cool to have another big winter event right next to us,” Hall said. “It’ll make Stillwater an even bigger winter attraction.”
The Ice Palace MAZE will be open Jan. 15 through Feb. 20 in The Zephyr Theatre’s parking lot, 601 Main St. N., Stillwater. Hours are 2 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Advance tickets are $20 for ages 13 and older, $12 for ages 5 to 12, free for ages 4 and younger. To order tickets, go to icepalacemaze.com. (Tickets at the gate are $2 more.) Covid policy: Masks are required indoors, recommended outdoors.