St. Paul’s Winter Carnival unveiled its royal family Friday night, making history by crowning a black woman as Aurora, Queen of Snows.
Krystle Igbo-Ogbonna, a University of Minnesota alum and current University of St. Thomas graduate student, applied for the title last fall and was inaugurated during the coronation gala at the St. Paul RiverCentre.
“I hope that my presence within the royal family will show other women of color — but really other young women who maybe look at this opportunity as something they wouldn’t be able to pursue for themselves — that they can represent the city of St. Paul,” said Igbo-Ogbonna, who works as a program adviser at Century College. “Any young woman who thinks that she would be a great ambassador for our capital city should feel like they can pursue this opportunity.”
Dan Stoltz, CEO of Spire Credit Union, was crowned King Boreas Rex LXXIX. Both are lifelong St. Paul residents who have been attending the carnival with their families since childhood.
The 129th Winter Carnival runs from Jan. 22 to Feb. 1. Events are primarily held in downtown St. Paul in and around Landmark Center and Rice Park, and at the State Fairgrounds.
Candidate selection differs for the King and Queen, as men are nominated to play the role of Boreas while women submit applications to be considered for Aurora. Those selected for the royal family enter a yearlong commitment, attending more than 300 appearances during their reign throughout Minnesota, the U.S. and Canada.
Judges and committee members for the Queen of Snows said they look for candidates who are gracious, poised and exceptional public speakers. Igbo-Ogbonna had all of those qualities, officials said, and an impressive résumé to boot.
“She really just knocked it out of the park,” said Natalka Kramarczuk Hertaus, queen candidate committee chair. “Every time we go to some volunteer activities she’s getting down on the kids’ level … she knows her audience and she’s very passionate about the people she’s working with.”
Igbo-Ogbonna, who held the title of Rice Street Princess at the carnival in 2010, said she wanted to dedicate the time to the queen’s rigorous schedule after observing how the royal family’s volunteerism affects locals.
As King Boreas, Stoltz created the mantra of “chase your dreams,” in an effort to remind residents of their limitless potential at any age, he said.
“Walt Disney says ‘if you can dream it, you can do it.’ That’s really how we want to encourage people.”
Stoltz and Igbo-Ogbonna starred in King Boreas’ Grande Day Parade in Rice Park on Saturday afternoon — one of the carnival’s staple events. Finals for the Crashed Ice competition followed that night.
Sunday’s events include: Vulcan Fun Day at Snow Park at the Fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., a free St. Paul Civic Symphony concert at Landmark Center Cortile beginning at 3 p.m., and the first MN United FC SnowBall Soccer Tournament, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Winter Carnival is ranked as one of the top winter festivals in North America, with annual attendance averages around 300,000 guests.
“It’s about community, it’s about family, it’s about celebration,” Igbo-Ogbonna said. “It brings people together.”