For a few weeks in late January and early February, the dead of the Minnesota winter, St. Paul has traditionally put aside desires to stay bundled up indoors and instead head out to brave the cold and have fun. In typical St. Paul fashion, this often involves a fair amount of drinking. I speak, of course, about the St. Paul Winter Carnival, one of the world’s largest urban celebrations of the winter season. Having spent a fair bit of time in St. Paul this year with Lindsay, we were able to check out a few of the crazy events that make up the festivities of the Winter Carnival. As we enter the last week of meteorological winter, I thought I should discuss some of the adventures had this year at the Winter Carnival!
As a child, I recall visiting downtown St. Paul with family members to view the St. Paul Winter Carnival opening parade, being vaguely disturbed by the Vulcans and awed by the transformation of Rice Park into a snow bedecked wonderland of strange, elaborate sculptures and palaces of ice. It had been a few years since I last experienced the Carnival, though, so I was excited to check out a few things with Lindsay. Sadly, I had to work during her favorite recommendation, hot chocolate and cookies at the St. Paul Hotel!
However, we were both able to attend some pretty cool events. A lot of the awesome stuff happens in Rice Park, in the heart of downtown St. Paul. Visiting one night we saw the awesomely wintery ice sculptures, only slightly damaged due to unseasonable warmth. Along with an accordion player, it made a romantic and beautiful time to visit the park. This is especially true while visiting the Wells Fargo WinterSkate, situated right under the majestic spires of the Landmark Center. They even rent skates for a few bucks.
At the St. Paul RiverCentre, we visited the Saintly City Cat Show January 23rd and watched judges choose, among the many variously amiable felines, the “very best cat.” It was always amusing to watch the judges make quick and efficient judgement of the cats, some of which seemed more tolerant of it than others. Compared to the Land O’Lakes Kennel Club Dog Show at the RiverCentre a few weeks earlier, it was pretty funny to see how little the cats have do to be deemed the “very best.” Both the cat and the dog show were good places to go if you want to watch people grooming their cute pets, though.
At the Winterfest Karneval, on the night of January 30th, the Germanic-American Institute hosted an interpretation of Fasching, a German version of Mardi Gras which often happens around this time of year in Germany. I had never been to the Germanic-American Institute, so it was a perfect time to check it out! The elaborate mansion was packed full of costumed attendees sipping the heady German libations, including the perennial favorite Jagermeister and watching burlesque and sideshow carnival shows from the Dangerous Fun Show. It took some Jagermeister to watch a guy snap a mouse trap on his tongue! The Euro-style dance party in the basement was also super fun!
On Saturday, February 6th, there was more drinking to be had at the Minnesota
State Fairgrounds at the Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival, of which I had never visited. Before the Dabbler, we stopped by the Snow Park at the Fair, where we admired the various snow sculptures produced for the snow sculpting competition, including a huge and elaborate seascape complete with whales and octopi. It reminded me of Minnesota childhood with the huge piles of snow set aside for kids to climb and shove each other down off of. By this time, we decided to follow the growing crowds to the Midway to visit the Beer Dabbler. With Lindsay as a “designated driver,” I sampled my way through dozens of breweries from across the country with the complimentary tasting glass. Along with the craft beers and ciders being offered, a wide variety of local cheeses and other snacks were also on offer. Just get ready to wait in a few lines, of course. The place was packed and tickets sold out days in advance. Watching the other festgoers bedecked in pretzels, cheese sticks, and the occasional garland of beef jerky was also quite amusing. I’ll admit, I probably had a bit more than I normally do, but it’s a little hard to keep track of it all when you are having little tastes of a whole lot of stuff!
All in all, there was much fun to be had at the Winter Carnival and I look forward to trying out new experiences next winter!