SARANAC LAKE — Some people buy flowers for their sweethearts on Valentine’s Day. Others send greeting cards. Liam Ward uses a Makita die grinder with an 8-inch rotary knife spinning at 8,000 RPM to carve his and his wife Emily’s initials in the Ice Palace every year — a secret, semi-public romantic gesture now in its third year.
“I love it,” Emily wrote in a text. “It’s a sweet way to show he’s thinking of me while he’s working on the Palace.”
A romantic tradition starts
In 2020, the Ice Palace carvers bought a new drill. Liam said it essentially spins a kitchen knife at 8,000 RPM and allows them to make more detailed lines than the chainsaw.
They were playing around with it, seeing what it can do, when Joe Plumb wondered if he could carve his wife’s initials into a block. Liam liked the idea and before they were done, carved his and Emily’s initials inside a heart on the underside of the UFO sculpture in front. The theme that year was “Myths and Legends.”
“I was surprised,” Emily said in a text. “It made me laugh since it was on the bottom of a UFO.”
Liam always hides the engraving on a sculpture he worked on.
This year, he placed their initials towards back of the “Predator” throne.
“She gets a kick out of it,” Liam said.
Emily loves to hear his stories from work on the Palace and has spent time volunteering down there herself, too.
The timing of the carving around Valentine’s Day is a “completely happy accident,” Liam said.
“I wish I could take credit for being that well-thought out, that my Valentine’s Day gift was some great romantic gesture,” he said.
High school friends turned sweethearts
Liam said he and Emily have known each other since high school. He grew up in Saranac Lake; she grew up in Tupper Lake. They met when she attended Saranac Lake High School for a year. They graduated and went to different colleges around the region. They’d still hang out from time-to-time — nothing serious.
Eventually, they realized they wanted to spend more time together.
They were married in July 2020. It was tough planning a wedding in the middle of a pandemic, Liam said. There were cancellations and their honeymoon was postponed. But he said while it was stressful in the moment, he believes it made them a stronger couple.
Now, he said, they are a “team.” Liam has some advice for couples.
“Just be patient and understanding. When you get frustrated or upset do your best to stay calm,” he said.
Word has spread about Liam’s hidden messages, but it’s still a mostly unknown feature of the Palace.
In the future, at the Ice Palace, keep an eye out for: “LW & EW.”
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