In just a few weeks, Minnesota will once again showcase the bold north with the longstanding tradition of hosting the Saint Paul Winter Carnival in Rice Park. In its 132nd year, St. Paul hopes to bring together Minnesotans and attract visitors pouring in from all around the country for the Super Bowl to highlight and celebrate the Capital’s rich history. The Winter Carnival always boasts a slew of fun attractions and activities, including parades, ice carving competitions, snow sculpting contests, ice bars, live music, and so much more.
However, the Carnival’s quintessential spectacle almost didn’t make it this year: The Ice Palace was in jeopardy for this year’s festival.
With the added influx of out-of-towners for the Super Bowl, the Winter Carnival wanted to create an especially an impressive, destination-worthy Ice Palace. That comes, of course, with an equally impressive price tag. The financial costs for the original design were estimated to be, at minimum, $5 million to cover the expense of harvesting the ice and architecture and engineering to design the structure with additional costs to actually build and operate the palace. With this extensive budget, the Winter Carnival Foundation wasn’t able to garner enough financial support and the Ice Palace was initially cancelled for this year’s carnival.
Minnesota’s Ice Palace tradition dates back to 1886, when the first Winter Carnival Ice Palace was built on the location of what is now a parking ramp for the State Capitol. Montreal was the first city in North America to create an ice palace but when a smallpox epidemic broke out in Montreal in 1885, leaders of St. Paul rushed to build their own Ice Palace in hopes of attracting more tourism to Minnesota. This first Ice Palace cost $5,210, and took 200 men three weeks to assemble the immense creation using over 25,000 blocks of ice from the Mississippi River and Lake Como. The palace was quite the wondrous sight rising 106 feet into the sky and illuminated each night using electric lights becoming one of the first buildings in St. Paul to have electric lighting.
(View a gallery of St. Paul Ice Palaces in all of their glory here: www.wintercarnival.com)
Fortunately, the Winter Carnival’s Foundation will keep the Ice Palace tradition alive this year with help from the community and a revised design appropriately named the “People’s Palace.” With funds and support from the locals, this will be the 37th full ice palace and will be constructed right in the heart of Rice Park. The People’s Palace will stand 70 feet tall featuring six spires to represent each member of the Carnival’s Royal Family. The Palace will use 4,000 blocks of ice costing a fraction of the original design at $800,000. This community-driven palace is still only about 75% funded, and this is where you can take part in the magic of the Winter Carnival: If you’d like to participate, you can help complete the palace by sponsoring a block of ice with prices starting at $25.
The Winter Carnival runs 17 days from January 25th through February 10th, where you will be able to visit the People’s Palace, and take part in dozens of other events and activities.
For more information visit the Saint Paul Winter Carnival’s website.