Fitness fanatics, foodies and anyone who, like Mayor Chris Coleman, enjoys beer tasting can find something of interest at St. Paul's Winter Carnival, which begins Thursday.

Other attractions include orchids at the Como Park Conservatory, a jigsaw puzzle contest, the "Saintly City Cat Show," an art show at Black Dog Cafe in Lowertown and geocaching throughout the city.

Music, skating and ice, lots of ice, also are on the extensive menu for St. Paul's annual event, promoted as "the Coolest Celebration on Earth."

National Geographic Magazine's latest issue ranked the carnival the fourth best behind Anchorage, Alaska; Saranac Lake, N.Y.; and Ottawa, Ontario -- but ahead of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Weather favors runners

Sculptures, sled-dog races and a "Salute to Canada" at Rice Park have been canceled for a lack of snow. Moderate weather, however, can be a blessing to events including the Securian road race on Saturday. The premier distance is the half marathon, 13.1 miles, but the race also has a 5-kilometer category where dogs are welcome to join the runners.

"The people who participate in this event love it," said Maggie Jensen, a Securian spokeswoman, of the Shepard Road race. "It's a cool scene. It's swarming with people, little kids and dogs."

Jensen said 1,100 runners have registered. Online registration closes Wednesday, but same-day registration is available Saturday.

The race starts at Securian Financial Group, 400 N. Robert St., at 9 a.m. ( If that's too daring, yoga in Rice Park is an alternative that starts at the same time, as does the "Ice Bowl" Disc Sports Festival near Como Park on Lexington Parkway and Horton Avenue.

The carnival, however, features dozens more events including the cat show, starting Saturday at 10 a.m. at 175 West Kellogg Blvd. (

Information is available through Organizers are advising that you check the site before heading out because so many events depend on weather.

There's bad news for anyone who enjoys craft beer al fresco. The hugely popular Beer Dabbler event will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Lowertown Farmers Market -- rain, snow or shine. But it is sold out. The mayor will be there to tap the first keg. Anyone without tickets will have to wait until the next Beer Dabbler event July 14 at Highland Fest.

Three parades featured

The first of three parades, the Moon Glow Pedestrian Parade, starts Thursday at Securian and ends at Rice Park. King Boreas Grande Day parade is at 2 p.m. Saturday from the High Bridge to Rice Park. The Vulcan Victory Torchlight parade will be Feb. 4.

Winter Carnival festivities conclude with fireworks from Raspberry Island and the Vulcan Victory Dance at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Feb. 4 (

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson