#1: See the Winter Carnival ice sculptures

Minnesotans are a hearty stock of people.  The determined Viking grit combined with the strong Midwest American work ethic produces a breed of individual that can yield a formidable culture.  Thankfully, a sizable portion of the population also has a hearty dose of Norwegian and/or Lutheran ancestry in their lineage, which provides a tempering effect to all the Viking/Midwestern testosterone.  The net result is a group of humans that simultaneously smile and grit teeth in the face of discomfort or adversity.  True, this seemingly contradictory duo is not always desired; but when it comes to factors beyond one’s control (like brutally cold winter temperatures, for example), the combination can be a powerful asset.  Indeed, only people with a Minnesotan DNA could be bold enough to create an outdoor carnival in the deepest, coldest part of winter.  When Ma Nature delivers feet of snow and double-digit negative temperatures, the good people of Minnesota reply by creating a festival designed to embrace all she cares to hurl their way.

The St. Paul Winter Carnival is the nation’s oldest and largest winter festival – a fact many residents of the cities are very proud of.  While large groups of people have an annual ritual of attending various events occurring throughout the carnival, I head in the opposite direction and actually avoid the numerous festivities.  It’s not that I’m averse to having fun or engaging in celebration; rather, it’s because I loathe the cold.  I’m a small person with poor circulation; in weather below 20 degrees (F), my fingers and toes go numb within minutes.  At zero degrees, my nose follows suit.  Below zero degrees, my whole body shakes involuntarily, and I pretty much hate life.  So why would I choose to subject myself to such physical discomfort and mental distress in the name of “having a good time”?  No thank you.

Yet as I compiled my 101 list, I knew I couldn’t claim myself to be a proper Minnesotan if I had never attended at least part of the Winter Carnival – and my heart knew that I couldn’t take the ‘easy’ route with this task and participate in exclusively indoor activities.  No, I knew if I was going to assert that I had been to the event, I was going to have to go to something with a cold-weather, outdoor focus – and a person is hard-pressed to find something colder than ice.

I had seen various pictures and TV footage of massive, intricate ice sculptures created in past years; the images I viewed were very impressive, and I could only imagine what they might look like in person.  So of all the Winter Carnival events to choose from (art shows, music performances, dance parties, pony rides, hot air balloon races, treasure hunts, bouncing team tryouts, etc.), I decided that seeing the ice sculptures would probably the most ‘authentic’ activity to do.

Last year when I engaged in some of the other cold-weather tasks on the list, the weather was very pleasant (relatively speaking).  Not so this year.  As my sweetie and I got in the car to drive across town to see the sculptures, I peeked at the thermometer: 4 degrees.  Holy crap.  Hold on Stef, this experience might be a doozy.

Upon arriving in downtown St. Paul, my husband found a parking spot just two blocks away from the park where all of the ice sculptures were displayed.  As we approached the entrance and I spied the first sculptures, I realized a few things:

  1. The creations look a lot smaller in person than they do on TV.
  2. Time is not a friend to the ice-sculpture process.  All of the pieces were created last weekend, but my sweetie was out of town during those days; so I delayed completing this activity until he returned and we could do it together.  I could tell that the creations were likely very intricately designed when they were ‘fresh’; but seven days of fluctuating temperatures, snow, and human ‘admiration’ (i.e., touch) had polished some of the crisp details to dull remnants.

Still, I was excited to walk around the park and observe what was available to be seen.

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Yet by the time my husband and I had viewed all of the cold creations, I was quite ready to be done with this task.  Despite wearing knee-high wool socks, long underwear, heavy sweatpants, a long-sleeved microfiber shirt, a thick fleece sweater, snow boots, a heavy stocking cap, construction-grade mittens, and an ankle-length coat rated with a “comfort range” of 0 to -50 degrees (F), my fingers no longer functioned, my cheeks stung, my nose had ice crystals forming on it… I was plenty cold, quickly approaching miserable.  All I wanted to do was get into a warm location, drink a hot cup of anything, allow my core temperature to return to 98.6, and end the pain.  Please.  Now.

But I did it.  I participated in a classic St. Paul Winter Carnival event.  (And I have the pictures, the memories, and the near-frostbite to prove it.)  I am one step closer to being a ‘true’ Minnesotan.

Skol, um ya ya!

(Or something like that.)




About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
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19 Responses to #1: See the Winter Carnival ice sculptures

  1. tqdcamille says:

    Glad you gave the carnival and the ice sculptures a whirl. The cold has definitely been brutal the last few days, so good for you for braving it!


    • Stef says:

      Braving the weather we did – though on the drive to the park I commented to my husband, “You know, if this item weren’t on my 101 list, I so wouldn’t be doing this today!” But that’s the beauty of setting public intentions – they prod me into action! And at the end of the day, I never regret trying something new.


  2. rutheh says:

    So very cool. Seriously. I love the whole event. Making the best of what the season offers. Loved seeing your photos.


  3. yaypigeons says:

    Thanks for sharing! I lived in Minnesota for thirteen years (grad school at the U of M and I stayed on for a bit.) My favorite memories were the year they did the ice castle and flying kites on Lake Como during the winter. I thought if I got out there like you did and ignored the frigid cold I would just adjust. Nope. Too cold! But I miss the beauty of it all and the fabulous people.


    • Stef says:

      They still do the kite event (though for the past few years it’s been at Lake Harriet instead of Como), and I’ve seen the ice castle on and off over the years – I’m not sure what the story was with it this year. I’m with you, though – frequently it’s just too darn cold here! Alas, my husband refuses to move (he was born and raised in this state), so I’m “stuck” here for a while. Oh well; at least I’m ‘stuck’ with a great guy. 🙂


      • yaypigeons says:

        At least the people are nice there. I moved to Seattle for the more moderate weather, and have been loving the rain and temperature.


      • Stef says:

        I agree with you, the people are very kind here. I think most Midwestern folks are generally genial people. I have found Seattle residents to be similar in that regard, too. All around good people. 🙂


  4. narami says:

    I would have cheated and passed! The cold and me, we don’t have a good relationship. Thanks for sharing so I can at least say I have read and seen a bit of this festival!


    • Stef says:

      Cheating is not an option! (If I cheat, what’s the point of the list?) I also am no fan of the cold; but this item got me out of the house, so that’s something good. 🙂 I’m glad you got to enjoy a bit of the festival from your warm locale. 😉


  5. I think I liked the lion the best out of all of them because he was icy and transparent, kinda like a ghost lion. I lived in Indiana for a few years and really really really hated the snow. I did learn that I had to wear waterproof mascara instead of the regular one, otherwise it would bead and I’d look like The Crow 🙂


    • Stef says:

      “Ghost lion” – I like it! Where in Indiana did you live? (I grew up there.) And where do you live now? (Just curious.)


      • South Bend many years ago and am now in lovely Jupiter Florida – yes, we have great weather. Where in Indiana were you?


      • Stef says:

        Oh my gosh, I grew up in Elkhart! And my family now lives in Florida! (Parents are in Margate [Ft. Lauderdale area], sister is in Boca Raton, extended family in West Palm Beach, Royal Palm Beach, and Tallahassee.) Wild! Talk about a small world…


      • That is seriously weird! Oh my gosh – sums it up. With all that family down here, especially your parents, you are a future Floridian. Get down into the warm sunshine, woman!


      • Stef says:

        No, Florida is not the place for me. Nor my parents, for that matter; within 1-2 years they plan on retiring to Arkansas. They have already purchased (and remodeled) their final home and everything… So long as I am married to my husband, our home will remain Minnesota – for better or worse. 😉


  6. Touch2Touch says:

    Happily your mittens didn’t stick to the arms of the chair!


  7. Pingback: Beyond 101: Visit the Art Shanty Projects | Smile, kiddo.

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