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Warm Ice Festival St Paul*

Warm weather could chill St. Paul winter carnival

Curt Brown

Star Tribune

Published Jan 22 2002

Despite far-from-freezing forecasts, organizers of St. Paul's 116th Winter Carnival insist that the snow must go on.

When the festival opens Friday, they'll truck in snow from stockpiles at the State Fairgrounds and Buck Hill in Burnsville, not to mention 250 blocks of ice harvested from Lake Phalen.

"We might need a little help from King Boreas, but as long as the snow doesn't melt completely, we'll go and scoop it up and bring it to Como Park," festival chairwoman Cindy Carvelli-Yu said Monday.

The mild weather hot spots include the Giant Snow Slide at Como, which might be shortened from 150 feet to 125 feet. Carvelli-Yu said the Phalen ice will be placed on the bottom of the slide runs to keep the snow cold. Much of the ice-sculpting competition in downtown's Rice Park will be done at night when temperatures should sink back below freezing.

"If the carvings start to melt and pose a hazard of falling over or tipping, we'll have to knock them down, but hopefully that won't happen," she said.

Marc Kavinsky, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, said a persistent band of westerly winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere over the nation's northern tier should keep the really frigid weather up in central Canada.

"It doesn't look too wintry for the Winter Carnival," he said Monday. "It looks dry and mild with weekend highs in the upper-30s, perhaps flirting with the 40s, and we'll probably lose a good chunk of the snow that we have."

He said a brief cool-down Wednesday probably will be followed with highs in the 40s.

But that might not be all bad. Carvelli-Yu said attendance could rise with the temperatures because sled-hungry kids have nowhere else to turn.

"We tend to get more people out when it's a little balmy because it's easier for families with a bunch of kids to come to the Winter Carnival than be stuck inside with no neighborhood hills to slide on," she said.

The Giant Snow Slide is built of scaffolding and plywood, packed in with snow. She said the large mounds tend to hold up, but if the lighter snow at the end of the runs becomes too thin, they'll shorten the rides by 25 feet or so.

Ice blocks for the Rice Park carving are made at Sculpture Ice in Shakopee, stored in freezers and kept in cardboard boxes after delivery to minimize melting.

The traditional festival honors the mythical king of winter, Boreas, who is locked in a titanic struggle with Vulcanus Rex and his purveyors of warmth, who usually prevail in the end. Except this year, the pro-Vulcan forces might win before the Queen of the Snows gets crowned Friday.

Said Carvelli-Yu: "We'll take advantage of whatever weather we get and deliver the Winter Carnival, regardless."

Curt Brown is at curt.brown@startribune.com .

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