No Ice Palace in St. Paul? We can fix that. For cheap. There’s a simple solution at the end of this column.
If no one takes the suggestion, though, it’ll be a big disappointment for everyone who expected St. Paul to provide the most St. Paul thing possible: a big fort made of inert water.
As we plunge into Super Bowl mania, Minneapolis will be the hip, cool place with the swank receptions and expensive parties. The streets will be thronged with lacquered limos. There will be searchlights, fireworks, the Goodyear Blimp, more fireworks, the Goodyear Blimp wandering into the fireworks. There will be a replay of the Hindenburg disaster, with a newscaster sobbing, “Oh, the hupersonity!”
It’ll be so amazing we’ll almost forget the Vikings aren’t playing.
It’s going to be one big party — and none of us is invited. We’ll all probably stay home that week because we suspect the price of everything will be 30 percent higher. You expect the oil-change shops will run a Super Bowl Special: $20 more than usual, and you can’t get in unless you know someone.
With all that glitz, we needed something truly Minnesotan, and the Ice Palace would have been it. Any out-of-towner who ventured over from Minneapolis to see what was going on in St. Paul would have been charmed.
And confused: “So, you have another city next to the main city? Is it like a backup?”
“No,” the Uber driver would explain. “It’s a separate place with its own culture, which includes a massive glowing fairy house whose iridescent translucence pierces the gloom of winter.”
“OK, cool. Slow down: I want to Instagram this. Tell me more.”
“Well, the first one was built in 1869, and oddly enough, it burned down. A janitor threw a lit cigar butt on a pig that kicked over a pail of kerosene that was placed next to some oily rags. It melted. Flooded downtown. The pig was cooked up nice, though, and they fed it to the locals who battled the blaze.
“So every year we build one of these anew. The menfolk hew the blocks out of the Mississippi and drag them up on streets paved with bear grease, and then we have a bratwurst. Would you like a bratwurst? That’ll be $30.”
Of course, that’s not true. The first one was built in 1886, and they built another in 1887, and another in 1888. A spell of warm winters broke the string, but you doubt anyone minded. People like Ice Palaces, but they like sensations in their extremities even more.
In 1896, another warm spell left the Ice Palace uncompleted. The Winter Carnival’s history page says: “The storming of Fort Karnival by the Fire King Coal and his men and fireworks were postponed due to a thunderstorm.”
First of all, we need to bring back Fire King Coal, because he sounds awesome. He could pro-wrestle King Solar Panel.
Second, a thunderstorm in the winter is one of the greatest plot twists you can get in the dead of January; it’s like summer got drunk, wandered off, returned for its hat and started yelling at the help.
The last Ice Palace was in 2004, and I remember it well. I took Daughter to see it, because that’s what you do.
She may have been disappointed in the lack of thrones and royalty and unicorns, these being the childhood connotations with palaces, but I explained that these structures weren’t really like the storybooks said. They were the result of an exploitative feudal system that concentrated power in a hereditary nobility, romanticized by 19th-century literature that overlaid their virtuous aspirations on a bygone age.
I’m sure she remembers our little chat to this day.
Well, maybe. Or perhaps there’s a clump of neurons in her noggin that filed the whole experience under “hot chocolate.”
Anyway. No Ice Palace since ’04? Can that be right? Somehow people on the Minneapolis side of the metro think there’s one every year. We swear we saw it on a postcard in the airport, anyway. Why wouldn’t they build one?
Money, I guess, but c’mon. It’s the only construction material that’s so cheap everyone flushes it down the toilet several times a day.
The fact that they can’t find anyone to pony up for a Super Bowl Ice Palace suggests something sad: St. Paul doesn’t think anyone’s coming over. They’re like the less popular person who holds a party on the same night as the homecoming king and thinks: “Well, at least I’ll get the interesting people.” And they sit there with two friends until midnight, looking at all the uneaten food.
Or perhaps St. Paul doesn’t care. Not like: “Fine, have your party. I wouldn’t want to go to it, anyway.” But not care in a healthy way of genuine indifference. If getting excited over the Super Bowl is the most Minneapolis thing ever, not caring at all is the most St. Paul thing ever. You wouldn’t be surprised if St. Paul declared itself a sanctuary city for people who wanted to go to a restaurant and find a parking space.
But. If they decide they do want to join the fun, there’s one quick way to get an Ice Palace to beat all Ice Palaces.
Get out the fire trucks, hose down the Capitol and let the water freeze. It would be the biggest Ice Palace we’d ever seen.
“And that just … melts every year?” tourists would ask.
“Yes,” you’d say. “The Queen of Spring rides the Quadriga down the hill into the river. Would your kids like some hot chocolate? Super Bowl special: only $10.”