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A warm welcome from the winter carnival

Beth Pinkney, a Woodbury resident, is the new president and CEO of the St. Paul Winter Carnival. Staff photo by Louise Ernewein

Beth Pinkney's career has taken her from the heat of a Florida golf course to the icy chill of the St. Paul Winter Carnival.

At the start of October, the Woodbury resident of six years was named as the new president and CEO of the annual winter festival.

It was quite a change in career direction for a woman who has spent all her time since college organizing golf tournaments, starting with a tournament in Florida as a student intern and culminating in the U.S. Women's Open at the Interlachen Country Club in Edina this summer.

Not that Pinkney will accept that it's all that different organizing a winter carnival to hosting one of the nation's premier women's golf event.

"It's all very similar -- it's all event-based," said Pinkney. "You are dealing with operations and dealing with different city relations and volunteers and corporate sponsors.

"The only thing different is the time of year."

Pinkney, who grew up in the city of Hoyt Lakes on the Iron Range, is only too aware of the history in which the carnival is steeped.

"I'm very new and very fresh, and everyone has been very warm and welcoming," she said. "It's an exciting event to be part of. It's here in Minnesota in the Twin Cities which is a great community to work in.

"It's an event that has been around for 123 years, and to be part of the passion that these people have and the tradition, it's pretty exciting."

One of the highlights of the St. Paul Winter Carnival over the years has been the ice palaces, which captured the imagination of visitors to the festival with their intricacy, size and beauty.

The last such palace was constructed four years ago, in honor of the NHL All Star Game, and was built from 18,000 blocks of ice.

Pinkney won't be drawn on when the ice palace could make a comeback to the carnival, but pledges, "It will be brought back."

"It's what amazes me, when I see these pictures from the 1800s -- how did they even make the ice sculptures?" reflected Pinkney.

"Apparently, back in the day, the ice palace was the tallest building in St. Paul."

Although she's happy to be getting to know the state capital a little better, thanks to the winter carnival's headquarters in the Landmark Building, Pinkney is glad to return home to Woodbury each night.

"I moved to Woodbury because it was close to the offices [of a former job working for the Prom Center sports division]," said Pinkney. "It's grown like crazy. It's a great place to live and it has great access to everything you need."


• The St. Paul Winter Carnival was first held in 1886 to celebrate the city's growth from 39,000 residents in 1880 to 120,000 in 1886.

• Approximately 350,000 people visit the carnival every year.

• About 1,000 volunteers help make the event happen every year.

• The carnival is based around the legend of Boreas, who throws a 10-day celebration in defiance of Vulcanus Rex, the god of fire.

• The carnival is famous for its ice palaces, 36 of which have been constructed over the years. The 1986 ice palace stood 128-feet tall, while the 1887 palace consisted of more than 35,000 blocks of ice.

• The 2009 carnival will be held from Jan. 22-Feb. 1. For more information, visit

Source: St. Paul Winter Carnival website