Saint Paul Winter Carnival: Another Distraction to the Fact that its Winter

As I have mentioned in past posts, Minnesota is a state that does not let winter affect their ability to have fun outside. A recent example of this is the Saint Paul Winter Festival, which wrapped up its 132nd season yesterday. I attended my first (and only) Winter Carnival two years ago, right after moving to the Twin Cities. I tried to attend twice this year, but the traffic jams created by the Dave Matthews Band Concert and a Wild Hockey game deterred me (next year I will map out a better transit route to avoid the parking situation altogether).

One of the ice sculptures from the 2016 Winter Carnival

One of the ice sculptures from the 2016 Winter Carnival

The Winter Carnival was started in 1886 after newspaper writers from the east coast printed that the Twin Cities was just another Siberia, unfit for human habitation. Early residents were not willing to settle for such a reputation and began planning a winter festival modeled after Montreal's to show the world what the Cities were more than a frozen tundra. To preside over the festival, King Boreas and the Queen of the Snows was created. Along the years, additional members of the royal family were added, now totaling 21 volunteers. The Vulcan Krewe is the disruptive villain, representing springs destruction of winter (at the time I write this I am rooting for the Vulcan to succeed quickly). The culmination of the Winter Carnival is the dethroning of King Boreas by the Vulcan Krewe.

One of the early ice castles

One of the early ice castles

The Winter Festival is no simple or cheap undertaking. The first ice castle was constructed on February 1, 1886 at a cost of $5,210 with a height of 106 feet. That same castle would cost about $132,000 in today's dollars. The Guinness World Record was broken in 1992 with the 165 foot tall Pepsi Palace costing $1.9 million, a cost that nearly destroyed the festival (the last time Minneapolis hosted the Super Bowl). The castle, located on Harriet Island, drew nearly 2.5 million visitors. With the Super Bowl in town this year, the Saint Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation wanted to create a truly impressive castle yet again.

The 2018 Ice Castle at night (image courtesy of https://spwc.smugmug.com/) 

The 2018 Ice Castle at night (image courtesy of https://spwc.smugmug.com/) 

The original plan was to build the ice palace on the grounds of the State Capital. The $15 million estimated price tag nearly melted the entire project. Instead a scaled back design received the necessary donations and it was built at Rice Park. There were 6 towers, one for each of the Winter Carnival figures: King Boreas, Queen Aurora and the princes of the four winds. The design was created by Cuningham Group, a local design firm that has been commissioned for the last few ice castles. The ice palace used 4,000 blocks of ice cut from Green Lake in Spicer, Minnesota. This was the first castle to be built in the last 14 years. The standard festival is more akin to a one-story block fortress with numerous ice sculptures.

While the Saint Paul Winter Carnival celebrates the cold and brings thousands of people out each night to watch as it lights up, it also signals the beginning of the end. The Vulcan Krewe has defeated the King Boreas signaling the end of winter. With snow in the forecast, it appears the Winter Carnival lore is just that.

Life in the Super Bowl 52 City

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Hearing about Super Bowl 52 began months ago for me because I both live and work in the host city. As a city planner the phrase, "it has to be done by the Super Bowl" was heard more times that anyone could count. I luckily had less to do with the planning than some of my colleagues that deal with permits and licensing, but it was easy to see the city gearing up faster and faster as the event neared.

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During the winter, we get an extra 1,439 acres of land in Minneapolis that is less accessible in the summer months. When our 13 lakes freeze they can be used as extra space to walk your dogs, cross country ski, and fly a kite. The last activity probably seems a little odd, but the Minneapolis Park Board has been sponsoring the Kite Festival on Lake Harriet for the past 17 years. 

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A recent newspaper article about the ABC parking ramps in downtown Minneapolis made reference to the Gruen Plan in Fort Worth, Texas. The brief description outlined Gruen's proposed ban on all cars from downtown Fort Worth to provide a better pedestrian experience and revitalize the area. Having lived in Texas for a few years, I found this a radical idea for the city, especially because it was a plan derived in 1959, a time when the car was king. Intrigued by this reference, I decided to delve deeper.

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The area of Northeast Minneapolis, commonly referred to as Nordeast, comprises 4,564 acres and 12,197 buildings. It has been surveyed a number of times by the City of Minneapolis, the first of which was back in 1981. Within this area, 204 properties are considered to have potential as a local historic landmark. Despite the number of eligible properties, this area of the city has the fewest designated properties. What we do have up here is a lot of buildings significant for their religious and social organization as well as the famous Grain Belt Brewery (originally Minneapolis Brewing Company). This area is also host to a number of residential developments from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

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Most people have worked in an office with poorly regulated temperature, where it seems that whatever the weather is outside, its the same inside. The office also probably had terrible fluorescent lighting, a severe lack of windows, and the ability to waft the terrible smelling tuna someone brought as their lunch throughout the building. These buildings were all designed to cram as many people into a building as possible without regard for how the office environment would turn out. For some design professionals, this does not make sense which is why they are turning towards WELL Building certification.

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Anyone that owns an old house knows that while they are charming and full of character, they are notoriously inefficient. I love my old bungalow, but it is nearly impossible to keep at a consistent temperature or save on energy costs. Despite being a solid structure that has lasted 100 years without major failures, there was no need to keep it sealed for efficiency. All summer long the windows would have been open because air conditioning was not available. 

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Today's public squares have become remnants of the city beautiful movement, home to landscaped areas in a picturesque setting. They offer a nice place to sit for lunch, but little more. The purpose of the public square in history is rooted in government interaction and democracy. One that represents this and continues to function as such today is the Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco, California.

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When my family moved to a small acreage surrounded by corn fields I learned about the conflicts between deer and vehicles. While I was never in the clear, I needed to be especially cautious in the fall when driving near dusk. I have had several close calls, one deer leaving a dent in my hood as it glanced the side of the car and continued running. In most areas, this conflict between nature and man is unavoidable, however I recently found out that on some major highways they have found a solution.

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A few weekends ago I held a garage sale to cut down on the amount of stuff I have to move to my new house. After living on my street for the last year and a half, I have spoken to five neighbors total. The only neighbors I got to know live next door to me or across the street. I have seen a few others, picked up on their daily habits, but I could not tell you their names. The day of my garage sale I talked to more neighbors than I had the entire length of my residence. 

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