According to Saint Paul Winter Carnival history, the event began as an answer by St. Paul business and civic leaders to an affront by East Coast newspaper writers in 1886 that deemed Minnesota an inhospitable place to live. The beloved event has since been revealing the beauty of its namesake city and the heartiness of its people for more than 130 years (except for the years during World War II)—not to mention it’s the granddaddy of all winter festivals in the United States.
Complete with its own legend, creatively crafted by St. Paul Dispatch writer Frank Madden in 1937, the winter-embracing festival includes everything from parades, live music, family-friendly activities, a medallion hunt and more.
And the Royal Family—King Boreas, Queen of Snows, Prime Minister and others, along with the Vulcan Krewe, with literally hundreds of appearances each—are the visible faces of the legend. We have many royalty alums from this neck of the woods, so we thought it would be fun to ask a few to share a favorite memory from their time in the Realm of Boreas.
Bill Foussard - King Boreas Rex, 2008
For Bill Foussard, owner of White Bear Country Inn and Rudy’s Redeye Grill, King Boreas is in his blood. “My dad was Boreas in ’63,” he says. “And my godfather was in ’64.” And with Scott Mueller as his prime minister, well, let’s just say it was a lively and effervescent court.
“We went to a cancer home in St. Paul,” Foussard says, his booming voice trailing a bit. “I walked into a woman’s room and asked how she was doing. She said, ‘They just told me I have four weeks to live.’
I held her hand and we started talking about Winter Carnival because her family was involved. And by the end of our conversation, by God, we were laughing so hard her dentures fell out.”
Foussard was so moved by her he went back two weeks later just to check on her. “But she’d already passed on,” he says. “To share that moment with her, to have her laughing so hard, you know … that’s really living.”
Scott Mueller - Prime Minister, 2008
Owner of Mueller Memorial (which was started by his dad, Al, who was King Boreas in 1973) and a self-described “ham” who never came across a microphone that didn’t like him, Scott Mueller describes his role as Prime Minister in his typical tongue-in-cheek way. “You know the guy in the circus who is always traveling behind the elephant with a shovel, the guy in the white suit?” he says. “That’s me. Bill [Foussard] doesn’t like that because he thinks that means he’s the elephant in the scenario, and I tell him, ‘Billy, it’s a metaphor.’”
“Well, the Vulcan conclave is a big celebration and it’s expected that the king is going to crash it, and I wanted to do something different,” Mueller says. “I have at the funeral home an old coffin; you know, one of those wooden boxes you’d see in an old Wild West movie. So I thought it would be funny to put Billy in this coffin. So he got in it and we carried him into the conclave in this thing; I can’t repeat all of the comments, but it was pretty memorable.”
Dorothy Hall (Nee Furlong) - Queen of Snows, 1955
Dorothy Furlong was a youthful 19 when she was named Queen of Snows. “And in those days, everything was the ‘good old boy’s club,’” she says. So true to her plucky nature, she set out to change that.
“In addition to all the wonderful appearances and activities during my year as queen, I realized I wanted to do more. I couldn’t understand why the queens didn’t have a club like the kings did, so I went down to the carnival office and asked them. And they told me to start one. So that’s what I did,” Furlong says. “You couldn’t have a cocktail party back then for the girls, so I called it the Queen’s Tea.”
The event has grown to well over 20 queen candidates, and others, who attend this annual fundraiser. “We make a lot of money, which all goes to help support the new queen,” Furlong says.
Charlie Hall - King Boreas, 1983
Charlie Hall’s foray into the Winter Carnival came via his brother, Bob, who was East Wind. Hall’s first wife, Ceil, whom he was married to for 58 years before she passed of cancer in 2010, was a chaperone and then queen mother for the queen candidates.
Hall, who had a knack for persuasion, got the St. Paul union trades to donate their time to the building of the 1986 ice palace. And wanting to ensure the workers would get the accolades they deserved, Hall spearheaded the creation of a granite monument with their names on it.
“Some of the most touching events were when we visited nursing homes,” Hall says. “It was so great to go to those places and the residents really enjoyed it, sharing a portion of their day, as good as their memory would be, for years to come. There were a lot of tears on both sides.”
Keith LeBlanc - King Boreas, 2011
A long-time White Bear Lake guy, Keith LeBlanc, reveals wearing the crown of King Boreas wasn’t something he aspired to do. “But it was a magical experience,” he says. “And a great honor to be asked to be King Boreas.”
“Part of your role as king is the knighting of people, where you bring them into the Kingdom of Boreas,” says LeBlanc. “We recognized all the great volunteers in the communities; some people cry during the knighting. It means so much to them. I can now say I have seen a lot of support groups I didn’t know about before and was thrilled to be able to recognize those volunteers.”
Charlie Hall and Dorothy Hall (Furlong), who met through the Winter Carnival, were married during the 2011 Saint Paul Winter Carnival in Rice Park, in front of 2,000 event revelers and family. The wedding was completely planned by Winter Carnival volunteers—“We just had to show up!” says Furlong—and was covered by local media outlets, as well as The New York Times.
(Left: Charlie all, right: Keith Leblanc)