Coolest Tree in Town
Thu, 07 Dec 2017 16:22:01 EST
The coolest tree in town is about to start growing.

Back in 1987, Wayne Kowalski of State Street Auto Wash in Alpena put up an ice tree as part of the winter carnival that took place that year. It was modeled after the ice tree in Gaylord.

That tree became a State Street landmark ever since. Though there were a couple of years that the tree was not put up, it is returning this year. Kowalski said his employees as well as employees from Werth Electric and Alpena Power do most of the work getting the tree frame, water lines and lights set up. The 50,000 gallons of water used to form the ice tree are sponsored and paid for by SUEZ of Alpena. The metal frame was donated and constructed by Alro Steel, and still used today, though with some modifications.

The original framework was dark in color and absorbed heat from the sun. That combined with the weight of ice that on the top of the frame caused it collapse. After some modifications and a couple of years of collapses, the frame eventually was made white and had been stable ever since.

Another modification that took place for some years was the addition of a bowling inside the framework. The Alpena Exchange Club used that bowling ball as fund raiser for about four or five years. A raffle of sorts was held that allowed participants to guess when the temperature would allow for the ball to drop. A timing device was installed that recorded the precise moment. But the black bowling ball also absorbed heat and caused problems for the ice structure.

Over the years, cut Christmas trees have been placed at the base of the frame work, and as the ice forms they add character to the shape.

According to Kowalski, the process is pretty scientific. He said a water line has been buried and brought up through the frame. When the air temperature is right, the water is turned on and the ice tree begins to take shape. From there, temperatures and water flow have to be monitored so lines don't freeze.

Last year conditions were not ideal, and the ice tree was not put up and it was missed by many. So the frame is now in place and as soon as the weather is cold is enough, and is predicted to remain cold, the water will begin to flow, and that could be today.

Kowalski said as long as the ice tree is appreciated, he will continue to make sure it happens.

The 28 foot tree usually disappears sometime in April.


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