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January 24, 2011

125th Anniversary of the St. Paul Winter Carnival

Filed under: Event — Alison Aten @ 9:09 am

St. Paul Winter Carnival's blanket toss near the ice palace, 1887This year marks the 125th anniversary of the St. Paul Winter Carnival. According to Dave Kenney in his book Twin Cities Album: A Visual History, the event grew out of a “sibling rivalry” between Minneapolis and St. Paul in the 1880s.

In 1886 Minneapolis hosted an industrial exposition “designed to promote industry and the arts, and they scheduled it for the same time as the state fair . . .  St. Paul, as quick to kindle dissension as its rival, answered the Industrial Exposition with the Winter Carnival, launched the same year. The carnival, which boasted a mammoth ice palace, attempted to counteract unflattering reports about the city’s climate by celebrating winter. Although the people of Minneapolis supposedly gave the event ‘a cold shoulder,’ thousands of St. Paulites and visitors from neighboring towns turned out. Attired in colorful carnival suits, many of them participated in winter sports and helped the forces of the Fire King storm the Ice King’s palace. Enthusiasm for the carnival did not last, though. Lack of ice and snow in the winter of 1889 forced cancellation of the event. Many skeptical St. Paulites were glad to be done with it. After all, opined the editors of Northwest Magazine, while those who did attend might have enjoyed the city’s winter climate, ‘the multitude who did not come . . . [were] apt to shiver at the mention of a city where towering structures of ice are a regular thing every year.’”

For more historical images and videos from the St. Paul Winter carnival, visit the MHS Winter Carnival page.

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