the winter carnival.

winter carnival

Each year St. Paul hosts a winter carnival.  I’m pretty sure it was started just to prove that Minnesotans are tough and that we laugh in the face of winter.  The carnival has been taking place since 1886 and is the oldest winter festival in the United States.

Back in the early days they built amazing ice palaces as part of the festivities such as this one from 1888.

1888 ice palace

Even as late as 1941 the palaces were pretty extravagant.

1941 ice palace

Unfortunately they no longer make anything like this.  The last time we had a decently sized ice palace was 2004.

2004 ice palace

It was large, but certainly not as elaborate as some of those earlier models (I’m betting that there are more safety regulations these days!).  Mr. Q and I did go see it that year along with about a bazillion other people.

This year since my sister and my niece are new to Minnesota they decided it would be fun to visit the winter carnival.  So last Saturday we headed into St. Paul to check it out.

To be honest, this year’s ‘mini ice palace’ was looking pretty sad by the time we saw it.  I didn’t even take any photos it was so pathetic.  I did get a couple of photos of some ice sculptures though.

ice sculpture 1

ice sculpture 2

ice sculpture 3

As a special bonus, we got to see a marriage proposal taking place in front of one of the ice sculptures.  It was pretty sweet.

There is a fake legend that goes along with the winter carnival (you can read the full story here).  The legend says that on the last day of the festivities Vulcanus Rex and his Krewe storm the ice palace and force King Boreas to give up his icy hold over his winter capital.  Thus there is a Vulcan Victory Torchlight Parade on the final day.

torchlight parade

Back in the day the Vulcan Krewe would kiss the girls along the parade route leaving smears of black grease paint on their face, but that custom has been toned down.  These days they just use a grease paint crayon to leave their mark.  I warned my niece Kris that pretty girls were obvious targets!

kris at winter carnival

Hail the Vulc!

By the way, are you wondering what appropriate attire is for a winter carnival?

me and deb at winter carnival

Down parkas of course!

Here’s hoping the Vulc’s have done their job properly and booted King Boreas off his throne!  I am ready for a little less winter, how about you?

12 thoughts on “the winter carnival.

  1. I have never heard of a Winter Carnival it would seem you Minnesotians are hardy character. Those castles are the proof and these ice carvings too! Very photogenic
    family too!


  2. Beautiful ice sculptures. I have to agree that I think things have been toned down for the past years, no doubt due in part to regulations, etc. Sad, really because it tempers the creativity and unique spirit that embodies this region. I remember the Vulcan’s kissing everyone 😉 There is a point when things get so PC, they lose their flavor. Looks like Debbie and Kris fared well for their first Winter Carnival though! Smiling through the shivering?


  3. I remember taling my kids to a pretty cool ice castle on Harriet Island..must have been late 80’s or early 90 ‘s…great weather and lots of fun. The Torchlight Parade was always fun too. Glad Debbie and Kris got to experience it!


  4. I remember when my entire family headed to the big castle, first by car & then a shuttle of some sort. It was about 20 below. No big deal, we thought. Until my daughter starts telling me she has no feeling in her feet & is actually crying. While she is clumping behind us, we enjoyed the coins imbedded in the ice, the lights & sounds of a winter wonderland. Needless to say, we got into a long line of people who were getting hot chocolate so we could get into a heated tent.
    That was the only thing that saved Heather’s toes!!


  5. This post made me laugh out loud! I’m not sure that’s what you intended, but I am just so unfamiliar with these far north customs that they struck me as truly funny. Smearing the black face paint on pretty girl?? So fun! Glad you were able to show your family a good time 🙂


  6. Thanks for sharing this LInda. This post brought back so many memories, and all of them good — even the “cold” ones! Country Living magazine even gave a little shout out to the Winter Carnival — someone had an original poster and was wondering what it was worth. 😀


    1. I saw that Cynthia! The day after I posted this! I wish I’d seen it sooner so I could have included a note about it in my post. I thought the poster was fab, wish I had a vintage winter carnival poster!


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