I grew up in Saint Paul, MN and as a kid I took part in the Winter Carnival almost every year. There were tons of events, and some years it was sledding, and others consisted of simple visits to the ice sculptures. I’ve also been to the torchlight parade multiple times. Ever since moving to the suburbs, I’ve rarely gotten back down to the city to check any of it out anymore.
My wife recently learned more about the Winter Carnival, and having grown up far from it, really had no idea what it was. So Saturday night we headed out to witness the big culmination of the event, the torchlight parade and the dethroning of King Boreas by Vulcanus Rex (check out the Legend page for more info).
We started out the evening checking out the remnants of the ice sculptures, while listening to a brass band. Unfortunately, this is something you really need to check out shortly after they are finished, as they don’t last very well till the final night. We did see a neat one that was a Rock’em Sock’em robot with King Boreas and Vulcanus Rex fighting. I got some mulled wine and then we headed to dinner before the parade.
After enjoying a nice leisurely stop at Rival House we headed back to the parade route. We followed the parade up to Rice Park and cheered on the various carnival Royalty, as well as other floats from surrounding communities. One of the cool things with this parade is the number of hot air balloon baskets that are carried on the back of trucks, shooting their giant flames into the night sky. Not only is it cool to watch, but it’s really nice and warm!
Eventually the parade ended with the entry of Vulcanus Rex and his Krewe. As a kid the finale usually happened on the steps of the Landmark Center, however this year it appeared that they were heading around the back side of the park. We hurried over, fighting massive crowds, and made it just in time to see the dethroning of winter through a gap in all the Vulcan fire trucks. My only complaint this year was how difficult it was to see and hear the action. The official Facebook page has some pics and videos if you want to see more.
Once the dethroning was complete we were treated to a fireworks display, literally right above our heads. The cannons were about 30 feet away and so the best shot I could get was through the tree above my head. Despite having to crane my neck it was a lot of fun to watch up close. Soon enough though the show was over, and we decided it was time to head home before the dance party started.
It’s really fun to have a hometown festival that includes legend and ritual. It makes the entire event feel more meaningful and special. We’ve got this wonderful story to tell about our love affair with winter, and yet our hope for spring. It shows the world that we’re not just flyover country in the winter. We can have fun in the cold, and celebrate the fact that we’ve overcome what most people would hide from to celebrate community. Welcome to Minnesota in the winter!