Hot Iron Days in Lamberton is a two-day celebration with its own 5k race, dinner, and kiddie parade.
But let’s face it: the real star of the show is the molten iron on Friday evening.
Several hundred spectators turned out Friday to watch Larry Hubert of Lamberton show how blacksmiths used to melt scrap iron and form it into useful tools.
Hot Iron Days was founded (get it?) by Hubert eight years ago, growing out of his interest in metal work.
“My son Mike went to school at Southwest Minnesota State University, and got a BA in studio art,” Hubert said.
“One day Mike went out to an iron pour in Hennen, and came back saying, ‘Dad! We’ve got to do this!’”
Soon Hubert owned his own cupola for melting scrap iron, and toured three states demonstrating antique-style iron pours.
When the Lamberton Historical Society renovated the old Hanzlik Blacksmithing Shop in downtown Lamberton, it seemed the perfect opportunity for a new town celebration.
Why not sponsor an antique iron pour in his own town?
Although the techniques Hubert demonstrated on Friday were once used to make machine parts, at the Hot Iron Days demonstration he mostly cast iron sculptures by Minnesota artists.
The sculptures are originally created in clay or styrofoam, then packed in a special sand that resists heat to make molds.
The cupola for melting iron is basically a big barrel lined with a special heat-proof cement for burning coke, a special refined coal that’s between 92-95 percent pure carbon.
“The walls of the cupola get up to 2,700 degrees,” said Hubert. When asked how hot the flame burns, he said, “Oh, I don’t know. You’d have to ask a physicist, but I’ve heard it gets up to 5,000 degrees.”
Up to 800 pounds of scrap iron can be melted up to 2,300 degrees at a time in Hubert’s cupola. For his basic material, Hubert used mostly old machine parts and unsuccessful sculptures by regional artists.
Once the iron is liquid enough, it is poured into a special ladle that itself has to be heated up to several thousand degrees to keep the molten iron from melting too quickly.
When the iron is poured into the molds, it is so hot you can warm your hands on it from eight feet away. The final results were able to be seen the next morning when they had cooled down.
It was a hot time in the old town that night.