Warmer weather brings big St. Paul Winter Carnival crowds

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The St. Paul Winter Carnival drew hundreds of people to Rice Park on Saturday. The annual event is expected to attract 250,000 attendees through Feb. 2.

“I love the legend,” said Cindy Gardner of Big Lake. “It brings back memories of when I was a little girl attending the parades.”

Gardner said the tradition brings her, and others, back every year. She is a former Queen of Snows candidate.

“It’s just something that I love to reminisce about with my own children now,” she said. 

We spoke to Gardner as she and Janine Renslow prepared for the parade. Renslow’s daughter is a Big Lake ambassador this year.

“She’s in the parade today so we’re coming to cheer her on,” said Renslow. 

Renslow said she also enjoys seeing the ice sculptures.

“Things you don’t get to see every day in other states that are too hot,” she said.

Crowds grew, watching in awe, as the sculptors finished their masterpieces. Each team had to transform 3,000 pounds of ice into an intricate work of art.

“We love to see how everyone is fascinated by it,” ice sculptor Deneena Hughes said. “We're out here to make it beautiful, so it's nice to see people appreciate it.”

Hughes’s all-female team is called the Icecababes.

They were given 48 hours to complete their sculpture, starting at 7 p.m. Thursday and ending 7 p.m. Saturday. 

The warmer temperatures created different challenges than the polar vortex did in 2019.

“Last year, believe it or not, I found it easier than this year,” Hughes said. “The biggest challenge [this year] being nothing freezes, and we can’t build these structures without things freezing.”

She said they adapted by working through the night when temperatures were lower. They also used dry ice to help freeze water to hold pieces together. 

Hughes told us she was happy to see the larger crowds this year.

“This year is absolutely ideal for people to come out and enjoy it,” she said.

The Saint Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation said this Saturday and next Saturday will be the busiest days of the event. 

“We’re having a great day,” said Deb Schaber, St. Paul Festival and Heritage President “We had five days of the polar vortex last year, so now with the 25- to 30-degree weather, it's perfect for us.”