Winter Carnival in St. Paul, Minnesota

April 21, 2023 2:34 pm126 commentsViews: 288

The Winter Carnival, held in St. Paul for 12 days each winter is a grand affair. Enticements of a hidden medallion worth up to $10,000.00 call Minnesotans to the outdoors, searching for the elusive pendant on all public land in Ramsey County. The hunters are spurred on by cleverly written clues, one each day printed in the local Pioneer Press, on the newspaper’s website, and for the dedicated, outside the Newspaper’s headquarters each night at Midnight.

In order to collect the full $10,000, Medallion Hunters need first purchase a $5.00 button and register it with the Winter Carnival organization, via website or mail. If the medallion hunter that finds the elusive medallion, usually hidden long before the first snowfall, fails to register their button, they are only entitled to $5,000.

The hunt itself is exciting; Minnesotans come out in droves to all the public parks, looking for the medallion. Some bring warm drinks, some joke, and some spread rumors that it has been found. Everyone who hunts does so excitedly, with marked suspicion of everyone else in the park. It’s a grand excuse to freeze and enjoy the beautiful parks in St. Paul. Inevitably, each year, hunters learn more and more about their city’s history, thanks to the clues that focus all attention on street names and park history, and find new things they never saw before.

Origins of the Winter Carnival

The St Paul Winter Carnival made its debut in 1886, partly to showcase its rapid growth as a city, and partly to disprove a New York reporter’s review that it was “another Siberia,” among other affronts. The Medallion Hunt was added in 1952, pulling Minnesotans into the often frigid winter in search of the tiny pendant in outdoor parks. Some years the dedicated stayed out in temperatures exceeding 38 below zero, deep into the night, only to come home empty handed. The medallion has been hidden inside Oreo cookies, diapers, old socks and hockey pucks. This also encourages the hunters to clean the areas that may be littered, for the sake of the city, and to be respectful of the parks while leaving no stone unturned.

There is a royal court to reenact and embellish the legend of the Winter Carnival, based on the short piece written for the Pioneer Press in 1941 by Frank Madden, though King Boreas had been crowned every year since 1886. The royal family consisted of King Boreas, Queen of the Snows, and 4 princes, along with their princesses, each to control one of the winds. Of course, every royal family must have its villains and dominion. There is a “Vulcan Krewe” from the land of fire and brimstone that each year, await their chance to overthrow King Boreas, and no winter carnival would be complete without “Klondike Kate” to entertain and sass back to revelers and royalty alike.

The participants in the reenactments are not relegated to one carnival’s duties. Throughout the year the Royal Family, Vulcan Krewe and Klondike Kate travel throughout Minnesota, making 200 appearances for volunteer work throughout the year. With so much goodwill and “Minnesota Nice”, one would think that employers could turn a blind eye to a die-hard Medallion hunter, for the sake of the carnival.

The Carnival’s events fluctuate every year along with the dates, but on any given year, revelers can expect “bouncing girls,” girls thrown by blankets into the air upwards of 50 feet. Other popular events are snowshoeing, ice sculpture contests, hot-dish tents, 2 parades, ice skating rinks set up throughout the city, Victory Dance, and often an ice palace to accompany the ever-sought medallion hunt. One of the most anticipated events is the King’s Guard vs. the Vulcan Krewe hockey game, where the Guard wears blue and the Vulcans wear red.

The carnival is no small feat, bringing in over 350,000 people each year to witness the wonder. Minnesotans have gladly accepted the challenge to venture outside during the cold winter months to socialize, exercise and revel in what has come to be known as “The Coolest Celebration on Earth,” while learning about their beloved capital city with clever clues that force them to delve into history on their quest to cash rewards.


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