A signature St. Paul event is happening this week – the St. Paul Winter Carnival.
The Winter Carnival, a tradition since 1886, is the oldest winter festival in the U.S. It was a response by local business owners to newspaper reports that the cold made the state virtually uninhabitable, and was designed to show off the beauties, and fun, of a Minnesota winter.
The legend of the Winter Carnival centers around King Boreas, God of the Winds, and the Queen of Snows, who are holding court in St. Paul. They’re challenged by Vulcanus Rex, the God of Fire, Boreas’ implacable enemy. Boreas proclaims Carnival in St. Paul for ten days, and on the final day Vulcanus Rex storms Boreas’ ice castle. Not wanting to incite violence, Boreas retreats back to Olympus to dwell among the other gods there, and waits for ice and snow to enrobe St. Paul again next year.
This story is acted out every year, with the courts of King Boreas, his brother winds, their princesses, and court officials, and Vulcanus Rex and his followers, and proceeds with the proper pomp and ceremony.
The nexus of the carnival is Rice Park, located downtown St. Paul, where the ice sculptures are carved and displayed. This year there’s also a mini ice palace, made of 400 blocks of ice, an ice bar, and live music. Elsewhere are parades, the Snow Park with all sorts of fun family activities, the Disc Golf Ice Bowl, a snow plow competition, a cat show, and a winter run.
And then there’s the Treasure Hunt. Daily clues appear in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and if you decode them correctly they point the way to the medallion’s hiding place and a fair amount of money. Otherwise you get fresh air, exercise, and the joy of the hunt. This is a very popular tradition, with thousands of people participating and some very active online forums debating the minutiae of the clues. You can see evidence of the searchers’ enthusiasm in the missing piece of the Medallion above.
So come join the fun and help celebrate winter in Minnesota.