Frogtown's Winter Carnival Days

Aurora Park was the site of an ill-fated Saint Paul Winter Carnival Ice Palace in 1896. Weather didn’t cooperate and the palace had to be scaled back from a more grand size. Fort Karnival was more of an ice stockade and was designed by military personnel from Fort Snelling. It was built with two toboggan slides, a tower, a Native American village with 200 Dakota camping there, warming rooms and a restaurant and other features inside. One fun feature of the toboggan slide was that they were in opposite directions, so riders could travel down one and then the other.

The palace glittered at night thanks to extensive lighting. Fireworks above wowed the crowds. But rain ruined the planned storming of the palace and that event had to be postponed.

The next ice palace in Frogtown was built in 1937, where the State Office Building is now. That year’s carnival featured singer Rudy Vallee. Huge crowds gathered to see and hear him, see the parades and see the ice palace.

Crews used 30,000 ice cakes and worked 16-hour days in bitter cold weather to get the fortress-like palace built. Roaring fires were used to heat water to join the ice cakes together. Many of the workers were happy to be busy, because so many jobs had been lost in the great Depression. The 1930s ice palaces were designed by city architects and built through the federal jobs program, Works Progress Administration or WPA.

The palace was a 193-foot long wall, with peaks of up to 60 feet. After carnival it was blown up with dynamite.

In the 1920s when the Midway Club (now Midway Chamber of Commerce) revived the Winter Carnival, West Minnehaha Playground was one of the activity sites. Playground would nominate neighborhood girls as queen candidates and businesses would enter floats and marching units.

Frogtown’s railroads and industries had marching groups in the 19th and early 20gh century carnivals. After the 1930s carnival revival, Frogtowners held their own neighborhood parades and activities at times. Not surprisingly, the Frogtown Marching Club’s colors were green and white. The marchers would make noise with metal, frog-shaped clickers as they marched.