Baseball may be the game of summer, but don’t tell that to the St. Paul Winter Carnival.
One of the new events for this year’s carnival — scheduled to begin Thursday night with the downtown Moon Glow pedestrian parade — will be a five-inning ballgame between local teams at Midway Stadium.
Yes, that means turning double plays outside in February.
“We’re trying to bring back those big outdoor things,” said Rosanne Bump, president and CEO of the carnival and its parent, the St. Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation. “People want to get engaged in activities and that’s what we’re trying to provide them.”
Underscoring the festival’s “winter playground” aspect, other new features among the carnival’s 50-plus events this year include a giant snowslide for kids of all ages, and the (hoped-for) World’s Largest Snowball Fight at the State Fairgrounds.
An outdoor beanbag toss in Inver Grove Heights will cap activities on Feb. 2.
Bump is a new addition to the carnival, the first under her leadership. Before she took over the Festival and Heritage Foundation last year from Beth Pinkney, she had directed the River Falls, Wis., Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau since 2004.
The snowslide will be 15 feet high, 110 feet long and four lanes wide — so big that the Vulcan Krewe, a masked-band of carnival pranksters, need to make snow for it to supplement the natural stuff at the Fairgrounds.
The Vulcans are also in charge of the Snow Sculpting Competition, where the winning team will get $1,000 and the chance to represent Minnesota at the national competition in Lake Geneva, Wis.
The snowball fight will be part of Saturday’s Beer Dabbler, the state’s biggest outdoor beer festival offering an estimated 400 beers from more than 130 breweries. Officials hope to get more than 7,000 participants throwing snowballs for a full minute, which would break the Guinness world record. Tickets are required to attend.
St. Paul has hosted anywhere from 81 to 94 winter carnivals (some with limited scope) since 1886, when business leaders decided to promote the city as a winter wonderland to counter the claims of Eastern snobs that it wasn’t fit for habitation.
They built an ice palace and spun a legend pitting wintry King Boreas against fire god Vulcanus Rex, who represented the promise of summer.
The rest is history. The carnival, which has a budget of $700,000, has been held annually since the end of World War II and is ranked as one of the top winter festivals in North America.
About 1,500 active volunteers and 60 sponsoring groups make it go, and annual attendance averages about 300,000.