It seems COVID-19 can't stop the "Coolest Celebration on Earth."
A modified St. Paul Winter Carnival is scheduled for Jan. 28 to Feb. 7. with a mix of drive-through, virtual and socially distanced in-person events.
The epicenter will shift from downtown St. Paul to the State Fairgrounds, where there will be a drive-through ice and snow sculpture park. Tickets, starting at $20 per vehicle, go on sale at wintercarnival.com at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Advance purchase is required. Tickets are limited and organizers expect some sellout crowds.
"We are making the best of it and keeping it cool," said spokeswoman Molly Mulvehill Steinke.
Deb Schaber, president and CEO of St. Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation, which produces the Winter Carnival, said that confronted with COVID-19, they got creative with events to celebrate the carnival's 135th year.
"The conversation was can we do something to allow our community to get out and celebrate winter like we do every year?" Schaber said.
There will be more than 30 visual attractions at the State Fairgrounds, including ice sculptures, hot-air balloons and the Vulcans' fire engines.
Carnival leaders canceled the ice sculpting contest, opting to hire professional artists to create the sculptures, with spectators voting on their favorites.
The drive-through, which will include some food options, incorporates the best parts of the parade and the sculpture exhibit typically held in Rice Park in downtown St. Paul. There will be themed events, including National Hot Chocolate Day, Minnesota Twins Day, St. Paul Saints Day and the Vulcan Torch Night.
There will be no coronation. All 2020 carnival royalty, including King Boreas and Aurora, Queen of the Snows, bawdy songstress Klondike Kate and the heat-seeking Vulcan Krewe will serve again, Schaber said.
"They didn't have their normal year," Schaber explained. The royalty and characters typically make more than 400 appearances in parades, at schools and at nursing homes across the state. Those visits were canceled in 2020, so their reigns will continue a second year.
A virtual celebration and performances commemorating the 50th year of Klondike Kate will be broadcast on YouTube and Facebook.
The annual Securian Financial Winter Run has been shortened to a 5K and shifted from downtown to Lake Phalen. There will be phased start times to keep runners socially distant.
The carnival has created three scavenger hunts, which small groups can complete with an app. One focuses on St. Paul parks, one on history and a third, for adults, on bars and attractions.
The carnival is also launching "Crafted: A Winter Carnival Craft Drink Experience." A dozen restaurants, breweries, tea and coffee shops are creating carnival-themed drinks. Participants can mark a virtual passport.
Schaber said specifics of the event will depend on COVID restrictions. But she said hardy Winter Carnival revelers are nimble.
"We are trying to do something different and get people out to try new things," Schaber said.
Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037