As always, the city of Saint Paul is rife with events celebrating the “Coolest Celebration on Earth.” From one end of the city to the other, you can take part in all sorts of activities and frivolities. And this year is even more active than most, because this year marks 125 Years of the nation’s oldest winter festival.
Most events begin on this Thursday, January 27. That is the official start of the Winter Carnival, which runs through Feb 6. January 27 is the night of the Royalty Coronation at the Saint Paul River Centre, the night the Snow Carvers begin their work, and the night Geocaching begins (yes, Geocaching!).
This coming weekend is the biggest full weekend of the festival. A variety of sports events will be held, including Snow Softball, Curling, hockey, a Rugby Exhibition, the Securian Winter Run, a Nordic Ski Race and Kid’s Ice Fishing on Lake Phalen. There’s public ice skating, as usual, down near Landmark Center, and also, for something totally different, a Snow Snake Tournament and Riding Lawn Mower Competition. You’d think they’d use snowmobiles, but no. This is just quirky enough to be ‘better than average.’
If you’d care to gaze at the ice carvings or snow carvings, you can see the finished art on Sunday. Teams will be working on their sculptures steadily until the judging. The snow carvings are on the Minnesota State Fair grounds, just south of the main entrance. Carving begins on Friday morning and judging takes place on Sunday at noon. The winners get $1,000 and will represent Minnesota at the National Snow Sculpting Competition at Lake Geneva, WI.
The ice carvings are in Rice Park, downtown Saint Paul. The actual ice carving contest takes place on Sunday, Jan 30 and judging begins at 3pm. You can watch the carvers frantically spewing bits of ice during the day, but come back to view the completed sculptures at night, when the area is beautifully lit. Luckily, we’re due for a cold snap starting on Sunday.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, there’s parades, too! Parades start with the Moon Glow Pedestrian Parade on Friday at 5:30 in Summit Park, which anyone can participate in. Then there’s the King Boreas Grand Day Parade, Saturday at 2pm in downtown Saint Paul, which runs from just east of Mears Park, down Fifth St to Rice Park. And finally, on Saturday, Feb 5, the Torchlight Parade begins at 5:30pm in downtown Saint Paul, the same route as the Grand Day Parade.
And the big Hunt has begun. If you hadn’t already heard, the Medallion Hunt is underway. First clue was this past Sunday in the Pioneer Press. You can still catch up, but be warned, Medallion Hunters are a serious breed. If you have a Winter Carnival button, you get a little more cash; it’s $2,500 if you find the Medallion, $2,500 more if you bring it in with all the clues printed out, but it’s an additional $5,000 if your button is registered with the Winter Carnival (alas, registration was due by Jan 21). The Hunt goes through Feb 3 or sooner, if it’s found, and there’s a new clue each day. It often goes down to the wire but there is no recent memory of the Medallion not being found. So go, get your poetry in motion!
Each day brings a new activity, all around the city, from the Roseville Oval (Speed Skating on Feb 5) to the many sports activities at the University of Minnesota, to the many theater performances and art exhibits, including an exhibit called History on Ice: Winter Carnival Ice Palaces at the Landmark Center and St. Paul Hotel. The grand finale, in keeping with the legend, is the Vulcan Victory Dance at the Crowne Plaza on Saturday night. This celebrates the Vulcan King’s victory over King Boreas, and thereby ensures that summer will come. What? You don’t know the legend? You must read on to find out more…
There's usually music in Rice Park at various times throughout the Carnival, and don't forget the Beer Dabbler in Mears Park on Jan 29. This year there's a bit of ethnic fun, too, with Winter Fest 2011 taking place at the Germanic-American Institute on Summit Ave on Jan 29, and the COMPAS Art of Cuisine on Tour at The Liffey the evening of Jan 29.
What's your favorite thing about the Winter Carnival? Leave your comments below, and don't forget to subscribe so you can read each festival article as soon as it's available!