Icy entertainment

Wisconsinites are a hearty bunch, but even the most stalwart Badger State resident might give you a funny look if you suggest spending an entire day atop a frozen lake

Ice-fishing enthusiasts aside, the lure of spending one’s winter free time amid the climate-controlled comforts of the indoors — especially with the unofficial national holiday that is Super Bowl 50 taking place this Sunday — is too great for many this time of year.

It’s one reason the Clean Lakes Alliance launched its Frozen Assets Festival last year, and is expanding the event from one day to three this year.

“One of the goals of the Frozen Assets Festival is to get people out onto the frozen lake to experience how wonderful winter can be,” says Adam Sodersten, director of marketing and development for the Clean Lakes Alliance. “A lot of people have been on our lakes in the summer, but a surprisingly large amount of people tell us they have never been on the lake when it is frozen. Frozen Assets lets people experience winter activities on the lake like snowshoeing, ice fishing, and sleigh rides. Our hope is that people will fall in love with our lakes in the winter just as much as they adore them in the summer.”

The local love for Lakes Mendota and Monona is more than just a simple crush. It’s also big business.

Madison’s lakes are directly tied to the local economy and impact a wide variety of businesses. Restaurants and bars in and near the water, gas stations that benefit from weekend boaters, and hotels that host out-of-town guests can all tie some of their business to Madison’s twin lakes.

In 2014, the Clean Lakes Alliance conducted a lake-user survey of more than 1,500 people, and based on reported spending the organization estimates that two jobs and more than $150,000 in total impact are generated per 1,000 lake visitors. Over 20% of respondents were from outside the greater Madison region, meaning the lakes generate a significant economic impact through tourism dollars alone.

Frozen fun

Last year more than 1,200 people attended the Frozen Assets Festival when it was only a one-day event, and this year over 2,500 people are expected attend throughout the three-day weekend.

Activities are planned at The Edgewater Plaza and on Lake Mendota on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Feb. 5–7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.



Among the new attractions to the Frozen Assets Festival this year, festivalgoers will have a chance to see a piece of Madison history. On display on the ice will be the “Mary B” — a historic iceboat built in the 1940s that has won several regattas, according to Sodersten.

Additionally, the Frozen Assets Festival is playing host to the inaugural North American Ice Shanty Design + Build competition. Local construction/design companies Iconica, Ideal Builders, and Supreme Structures have built luxury ice shanties that will be up for auction and available to tour all weekend long.

Festivalgoers can also participate in a wide variety of free family-friendly activities throughout the weekend, including skating demonstrations on Saturday at The Edgewater Plaza from the Madison Figure Skating Association and Olympic gold-medal winning speed skater Casey FitzRandolph. Out on frozen Lake Mendota, snowshoeing, a slap-shot competition, s’mores, sleigh rides, ice fishing, and an ice science lab will highlight the fun and natural wonder of our winter lakes.

The Edgewater has also developed festival-specific family-friendly packages to encourage a full weekend experiencing Madison lakes. Packages include milk and cookies, ice skate rental, and dining credits.

A full schedule of events at the Frozen Assets Festival can be found at www.cleanlakesalliance.com/frozenassets/events/the-festival.

“Experiencing our lakes in the winter can be just as exciting as fishing, swimming, or boating in the summer,” says James Tye, Clean Lakes Alliance executive director. “We hope the entire community will take advantage of this free event and enjoy our fantastic ‘frozen assets.’”

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine – your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.