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Eagle River's ice castle may be down, but business is up

Eagle River's ice castle came to an end Wednesday morning, in anticipation of warmer weather.
Erin Gottsacker
Eagle River's ice castle came to an end Wednesday morning, in anticipation of warmer weather.

Eagle River’s ice castle came down Wednesday morning, but business in the area is up.

The sparkling 33-foot-tall structure attracted visitors from all over.

“There wasn’t a minute that there wasn’t a group in front of the castle enjoying it this winter,” says Kim Emerson, the executive director of the Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce.

She says winter weather always brings in tourists, from snowmobilers to cross country skiers, but this year, the crowds have been even bigger.

Emerson thinks the ice castle is a factor.

“So many people didn’t get to see it in several years,” she says. “It was missed.”

Firefighters last constructed the Eagle River ice castle in 2018, so this year’s onslaught of visitors means local businesses are booming.

Connie Justice owns the Moccasin Shop and Trading Post on Wall Street.

She says sales over weekends this winter have broken records for her business.

“People come up here and stand in a long line to see the castle, so the weekends have been really great,” she says.

Diti Djeladini has also seen business thriving.

He’s the manager of the Friendship House Family Restaurant, located mere steps from where the ice castle was standing.

“For us, it worked out really good because it was very close and we got a lot of people visiting and coming to have our pies and soups and dinners, especially at night because it looked very gorgeous with the different colors,” he says.

Djeladini says his biggest challenge isn’t attracting customers. It’s keeping up.

“I just work a lot of hours with no days off,” he says. “I was getting scared because you see a lot of people and then you don’t know how many of them are going to come in the restaurant.”

Those crowds scattered Wednesday when the ice castle came down. Tourism in the area typically drops in the spring.

But Djeladini and other local businesses are already looking forward to a busy summer.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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