The St. Paul Winter Carnival opens Thursday with some new attractions alongside the old favorites — and a towering ice palace.
The festivities kick off at 6 p.m. with the Moon Glow Parade followed by a grand-opening ceremony and the lighting of the palace in Rice Park. The annual celebration of ice and snow stretches for 17 days. Organizers hope the events, including live music and a spotlight on Olympic sports like bobsled and curling, draw Super Bowl visitors to the capital city.
Deb Schaber, president and CEO of the St. Paul Winter Carnival, said it has attracted 250,000 to 300,000 visitors in past years. The presence of the Super Bowl is likely to increase that but by how much is hard to say. “We assume that the community will support us,” Schaber said. “But it’s hard to tell with outsiders. The ice palace will be a huge draw.”
Already delighting visitors is an ice block on the palace’s south wall with a walleye frozen into it, an intentional ode to the state fish.
The Not Your Father’s Winter Carnival Music Series on stage in Rice Park will feature a variety of musical genres, including a tribute to Prince on Feb. 1. Musicians this year include Will Bauermeister, Tim Mahoney, Papa Bear Norton, and a Prince tribute band called Chase & Ovation.
On Feb. 3, the day before the Super Bowl in Minneapolis, the carnival will offer a chance for people to get excited about another major sporting event: the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Olympic Team USA Winterfest, a tour being put on by the United States Olympic Committee, will stop in St. Paul and give people an opportunity to meet former Olympians, sit in a bobsled, try curling and eat free s’mores. Olympians visiting Minnesota include Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who won ice dancing gold for the United States in 2014.
Jeyca Maldonado-Medina is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.