The Super Bowl is long gone, the Olympics are almost over. With so much happening in the world of sports, you could be forgiven for having missed this year’s St. Paul Winter Carnival (and cheers to you if you didn’t). Whether or not you participated this year, there’s one aspect of the carnival that’s still open for a few more weeks: Parades, Palaces, and People: St. Paul Celebrates Winter, open at the James J. Hill House in St. Paul through April 2.

jjh20stp History Of The St. Paul Winter Carnival

Photo Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

The Minnesota Historical Society put together this special exhibit to take a closer look at this time-honored winter event. The Carnival had its roots in East Coast snobbery; back in the 1880s, some newspapers out in that region sniffily disparaged Minnesota’s winters as being similar to Siberia’s, a place no one would want to visit, much less frolic outdoors.

Look how much fun they were having at this 1916 blanket toss! And those coats, apparently made from Hudson blankets–wonderful.

In response to those inciting East Coast news stories, the St. Paul Winter Carnival was born in 1886. Today it’s the oldest winter festival in the U.S., predating the Tournament of Roses by just two years.

jjh20stp203 History Of The St. Paul Winter Carnival

Photo Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

The opening year also celebrated the first–but not the last–ice palace, but it was only due to a smallpox epidemic in Montreal. Montreal had its own winter festival, complete with ice palaces, but in 1886, it was suspended due to illness. St. Paul organizers were able to coax the Montreal palace designer to St. Paul instead, kicking off the very first festival with the iconic structure.

It’s not the only thing borrowed from Montreal; the legend of King Boreas and Queen of the Snows derived from Montreal’s Ice King and Queen Aurora.

The Winter Carnival is still a growing, thriving entity, with a robust annual lineup of events. Sure, the 2018 event is over, but its spirit lingers on at the James J. Hill House, where you can learn more about the Carnival and its history through April 2.

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Tuesday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.

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