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Why Three Towns Are Fighting To Be The 'Ice Box Of The Nation'


Welcome to the ice box of the nation. These words are on three different wooden signs around the United States, and they're referring to towns.

PHILIP VANDERNAIL: The image of the ice box and pretty iconic.

MCEVERS: That's Philip Vandernail. He's the mayor of Fraser, Colo. His town claims the ice box of the nation title along with Big Piney, Wyo., and International Falls, Minn. The three towns have fought over this slogan for a long time - all the way back to the 1940s. And they each have pretty compelling arguments for why they are the nation's ice box. Mayor Vandernail says his Colorado ski town is so cold; the icy weather knows no season.

VANDERNAIL: It can snow here in the Colorado Rockies any day of the year. Winter could show back up in the middle of summer.

MCEVERS: When we talked to Mayor Bob Anderson of International Falls, Minn., he said the weather outside was 20 degrees, a temperature he described as balmy.

BOB ANDERSON: Haven't seen anybody in shorts yet, but that wouldn't surprise me.

MCEVERS: And Georgia Wenz, a longtime resident of Big Piney, Wyo., says if you spend a winter in her hometown almost 7,000 feet above sea level, you won't forget it.

GEORGIA WENZ: All you have to do to a lot of people is mention Big Piney, and they said the worst winter or few months I ever spent my life was in Big Piney, Wyo. It was so cold.

MCEVERS: So there's not a whole lot to argue about here. These three towns are really cold. In fact, they've all at some point experienced the coldest day on record in the United States. For Big Piney, Wyo., it was negative 61 degrees Fahrenheit. International Falls, Minn., currently holds the trademark for the slogan ice box of the nation, but the others still claim the title unofficially. So the fight continues. Philip Vandernail, the mayor of Fraser, Colo., proposes a solution to settle it once and for all.

VANDERNAIL: Maybe we can have a challenge between the three towns, and we can meet somewhere that's central and have an ice box throw down.

MCEVERS: They could do that with a sport that actually exists in International Falls, Minn., says Mayor Bob Anderson - frozen turkey bowling.

ANDERSON: Throw that down a sheet of ice, and hit the bowling pins. And you've got to do that with some good dexterity because those turkeys aren't as round as a bowling ball.

MCEVERS: So Big Piney, Fraser and International Falls, get your frozen turkeys ready.


Kelly McEvers is a two-time Peabody Award-winning journalist and former host of NPR's flagship newsmagazine, All Things Considered. She spent much of her career as an international correspondent, reporting from Asia, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East. She is the creator and host of the acclaimed Embedded podcast, a documentary show that goes to hard places to make sense of the news. She began her career as a newspaper reporter in Chicago.