Maybe King Boreas won’t get an ice palace this year, but at least he’ll have a throne in an outdoor courtyard of crenellated ice walls from which to reign.
The royal courtyard, to be built in Rice Park from frozen blocks harvested from Lake Phalen, will be one of the highlights of this year’s St. Paul Winter Carnival, the annual festival that began more than 100 years ago to put a smiley face on frown-inducing weather.
“We’re all here in Minnesota, so we might as well take advantage of winter and play outside for a while,” said Rosanne Bump, president and CEO of the carnival and its parent group, the St. Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation.
“We’re encouraging people to come to downtown St. Paul, stick around and have some fun.”
New events for the carnival, which begins Jan. 22 and runs through Feb. 1, include a pie-eating contest and an outdoor beanbag competition, both to be held in downtown’s Rice Park.
The annual jigsaw puzzle contest, in Landmark Center, will feature a puzzle designed by “a well-known local artist” whose identity will be kept secret until the event starts. About 70 teams are expected.
Also returning are the old carnival favorites: ice carving in Rice Park, snow sculpting at the State Fairgrounds, and three parades starting with the Moon Glow pedestrian parade on Jan. 22 and ending with the Torchlight Parade on Jan. 31.
Both weekends of the carnival will feature free music in Rice Park, including a performance by Kat Perkins at 7 p.m. on Jan. 24. Perkins, the Minneapolis-based singer who placed high on NBC’s “The Voice,” will be grand marshal of the Grande Day parade earlier that day.
The start of the carnival coincides this year with the first day of the Red Bull Crashed Ice competition, which will take place on an icy, teeth-rattling track running downhill from the Cathedral of St. Paul. The skating race, which has drawn tens of thousands of spectators in the past couple of years, should add to the festive atmosphere in and around downtown.
The carnival relies on the parent foundation’s annual budget of $700,000, along with 60 sponsoring groups and 1,500 active volunteers.
The last Winter Carnival ice palace, built in 2004 in conjunction with the NHL All-Star Game at the Xcel Energy Center, covered a city block and cost a cool $1.5 million in cash and $6 million in donated labor, materials and equipment. It made a profit of $630,000 from sales of the $5 buttons required for admission.
Bump said that carnival organizers considered a mini ice palace this year before settling on building the royal courtyard, which will feature a big firepit in the center and a sound and light show. It will be built with 1,000 blocks of ice, to be cut from frozen Lake Phalen starting Saturday.