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History of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival

In 1886, Saint Paul was America’s fastest growing city. Growing from 39,000 residents in 1880 to 120,000 residents in 1886, Saint Paul had also become America’s third largest rail center. To celebrate their city’s success, Saint Paul business leaders produced the inaugural Saint Paul Winter Carnival, which was held during the first two weeks of February in 1886.

In addition to showcasing Saint Paul, the business leaders wanted to disprove a New York newspaper reporter who had described their beloved city as “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation in the winter.” Patterned after Montreal’s Winter Carnival, the first Saint Paul Winter Carnival included parades, skiing, snow shoeing, a blanket tossing contest, and push ball, a game played with giant balls. The most successful attractions were its ice castle and six large toboggan slides.

Throughout its 125-year history, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival has been an integral part of the social fabric of Saint Paul. Carnival reaches out to the people of the Greater Saint Paul area to weave a tapestry of cultures with educational and cultural programming.

Other Key Facts:
Attendance – The Saint Paul Winter Carnival attracts approximately 350,000 visitors a year.
Economic Impact – The Saint Paul Winter Carnival has an estimated $3.5 to $5 million in economic activity in the City of Saint Paul.





 
 
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