In 1885, a New York reporter described Saint Paul as "another Siberia, unfit for human habitation" in winter. St. Paulites were highly offended by the insult, so they decided to prove that St. Paul was not just habitable, but actually fun in the winter.
In 1886, the first Winter Carnival had an huge ice palace, parades, skiing, snow shoeing, games and sledding.
Today, the St. Paul Winter Carnival is the largest event in the Twin Cities over the winter. The Winter Carnival is famous for displays of ice carvings, Minnesotan foods, and the torchlight parade through downtown St. Paul. Modern carnivals include ice racing, art shows, free ice skating, snow sculptures, sporting contests.
In past years, life size ice palaces have been constructed using ice from Minnesotan lakes, but recent years have seen unseasonably warm weather, melting palaces and ice sculptures. The last ice palace was built several years ago.
But the Winter Carnival's torchlight parade goes on even if the weather isn't very winter-like. It's usually the most popular event, held on one of the last days of the Winter Carnival.
The Winter Carnival is wrapped up in the legend of King Boreas, king of the winter paradise of Minnesota, and his mortal enemy, the Vulcan Krewe, lead by the Fire King. King Boreas is mythical, but the Vulcan Krewe are alive and kicking and make hundreds of community appearances throughout the year, can be seen riding around St. Paul on their vintage fire truck, and ride on a float in the torchlight parade. Every year, the Vulcan Krewe ceremoniously overthrow Boreas somewhere in St. Paul.