The Winter Carnival is a wonderful thing and I don’t care.
It’s a St. Paul deal. I don’t live there. I’m glad they have something Minneapolitans can’t share the same way, something that’s theirs. St. Paul celebrates water in its solid form; Minneapolis has the Aquatennial, which says “we endorse its liquid aspects.” Sharp distinctions like these remind us that we are separate cities with different cultures.
Towns need their own private mythologies. St. Paulites have King Boring Alice or whatever he’s called. They have Klondike Kate, a zaftig, brassy burlesque madam who would slap you if you didn’t call her a broad.
And they have the Vulcans, capering devils who run around cackling with gleeful villainy, daubing soot on the foreheads of blushing maidens. At least they used to; I think now they run around shouting “I tagged you on Instagram!” Not the same.
I like to think the Vulcans cannot enter Minneapolis because the air of the Mill City, heavy with atomized grain chaff, burns their skin. “Retreat, lads! Back to our city where the air is perfumed with the speech of politicians!”
There’s no Ice Palace this year. Rumor says there will be one next year when the Super Bowl comes to town, to give the blimps something nice to show from above. If the Winter Carnival planners are smart, they’ll hose down the Landmark Center, let the water freeze and tell credulous TV reporters that it’s the Ice Palace.
The one thing I envy is the Medallion Hunt. The Pioneer Press gives clues, and people search for a buried circular metal object. Faithful readers of this column know I have held a competing event for years, the Pre-Aquatennial Object Search. The first clue:
Near the shores of Gitche Gumee / goateed baristas smile / Hark! Six bells peal, but yea / the workman grouts the tiles.
I know what you’re thinking: “C’mon, really? That’s Lyndale and 23rd, by the fire hydrant. Give me a tough one.” Well, you’re wrong! Another clue:
Sixteen devils will soon lay waste / if the amulet strays from the maiden chaste / We will all be pitched into boiling hell! / It’s under the sink at the Taco Bell!
Ah, but which Taco Bell? There’s the mystery. So get cracking.
There are often representatives from the Winter Carnival in the Aquatennial Torchlight Parade, reminding us that winter will someday reign again. It would be apt to have Minneapolitans in Speedos at the end of the Winter Carnival parade, teeth chattering like castanets, reminding us all of two things:
1. Although it feels as if winter’s grip around our collective neck will never loosen, summer will return.
2. We’re nuts up here.