ST. AGATHA, Maine — What started out six years ago as a contest between residents of two countries to build the world’s largest ice carousel has grown into a friendly battle to one up each other with even larger ice wheels.
Aroostook County’s Northern Maine Ice Busters entered the running in 2018 when they beat the record of 400 feet in diameter. But the goal has more than quadrupled over the years as the record bounces from Finland to Minnesota to Maine and back again.
The carousel enthusiasts keep outdoing one another to create giant spinning ice disks each year and claim the glory — and an international traveling trophy — that goes along with it.
Roger Morneault of St. Agatha is the leader of the Northern Maine Ice Busters, which has held the world record twice, only to see it slip away like an ice cube hitting kitchen floor linoleum. But the fun is in reclaiming the title.
“All three of us did this separately without ever knowing the other people were doing this, so obviously we like being on frozen lakes, we like chainsaws and we like doing things that are bigger than ourselves,” Morneault said.
When Finland smashed the record last month with a disk measuring 1,692 feet in diameter, the game was on again for the U.S. The Ice Busters want to snatch the crown back and vow they will carve an even bigger carousel in St. Agatha in April.
The World Ice Carousel Association monitors the ice carousel building events. The northern Maine group’s latest victory was in April 2021 when volunteers made a 27-acre circular chunk of Long Lake ice measuring 1,234 feet in diameter spin.
Morneault was in Finland several weeks ago when competitor Janne Kapylehto carved the new record-setting disc on a remote lake in Lappajarvi, about a five-hour drive from Helsinki. He and his son even helped cut the Finnish carousel.
Chuck Zwilling of Little Falls, Minnesota, whose group has also held the record, joined Morneault and Kapylehto in Finland, where the men bonded over lake ice, chainsaws and cocktails.
Why the men get along so well boils down to camaraderie and common interests, Morneault said.
All three are creative, funny, crazy, friendly and honest, Kapylehto said.
“Ice carousel people like to party, also,” he said.
Morneault said he was astonished when Kapylehto commanded the room with a complicated piano concerto, error free, only to get up and walk away while the piano continued to play itself.
“It was not his first time faking this,” said Zwilling, who had seen the trick before.
Apparently the wily Finn also likes to entertain his guests with tales of polar bears attacking Finland’s capital city as residents fight them off with gunfire. And he’s pretty convincing, Zwilling said.
During the trip, Morneault experienced for the first time the popular Finnish pastime of sitting in a piping hot sauna followed by jumping in an ice cold lake. The sauna got so hot his ears burned, so the jump in the lake was welcome.
“Even though it was 15 degrees out, on that particular night it felt like you were standing on a sunny beach,” Morneault said.
The Ice Busters have set a symbolic new goal for their upcoming attempt at snatching the world record back from Finland, an ice carousel with a diameter of 1,776 feet, reminiscent of the birth of the nation.
Ice Buster Mike Cyr, a surveyor from Madawaska, is already working with special software to map out precision measurements down to the millimeter for the new carousel, according to the group’s media liaison and drone expert, John Mazo.
“Everything is done on the computer. That way we can plug everything from the computer into the GPS units,” Mazo said. “It is getting high tech and it’s getting so big that at some point, where do you stop?”
When they left Finland last month, Morneault and Zwilling believed Kapylehto had failed his record attempt. The Finns had cut the largest ice carousel ever recorded, but failed to make it spin, which is necessary for capturing the world record. But Kapylehto later spun the giant disc.
“It’s not a life-or-death thing that somebody has got to win,” Zwilling said. “That’s what we do — it’s a friendly competition. Nobody’s out there really thinking we’re gonna beat the record and that’s it. I said, just go a few meters bigger so we can play this game for 20 years.”
Kapylehto said he will not mind at all if the Ice Busters beat Finland’s record in April.
“I hope Roger and the Icebusters make it, so that we need to make one larger,” he said. “Never stop the madness.”