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A gathering of winter carnival queens

The home of Carla and Hap LeVander was filled to the brim with St. Paul Winter Carnival royalty, past and present, Sunday. The LeVanders hosted the annual meeting for former Queen of the Snows. Also, at the event, St. Paul Winter Carnival judges heard from the finalists for the 2009 Queen of the Snows. Staff photo by Hank Long

The St. Paul Winter Carnival, which kicks off this week, has some royal connections to Woodbury.

On Sunday, Woodbury residents Carla and Hap LeVander played host to an annual Queen of the Snows event.

The Queen of the Snows is one of a cast of characters who serve as ambassadors of the St. Paul Winter Carnival. Other characters includes King Boreas and his Royal Guard, Vulcanus Rex and his Vulcan Krewe and Klondike Kate.

On Sunday dozens of former Winter Carnival queens spanning more than five decades of service, gathered at the LeVander home in the Evergreen neighborhood for their annual meeting, which also serves as the last event for the finalists competing for the 2009 Winter Carnival Queen of the Snows.

"I think they're probably a little bit nervous, but they're definitely excited," Carla LeVander said about the final candidates for Queen of the Snows.

Forty three years ago, LeVander, then known as Carla Augst, was barely 20 years old when crowned Queen of the Snows.

"They always say, 'You're not queen at your coronation, you're queen at the end of the year, when you're work is done,'" she said.

Juliette Spier Francis can attest to that statement.

The 2000 Queen of the Snows now serves as the president for the former queens organization, and said there's more work involved in being queen than wearing a crown.

Spier Francis said the royalty organizations that bring the St. Paul Winter Carnival legend to life, also do a lot of the heavy lifting for the event.

"You're doing a lot of volunteering, and visiting a lot of different people, organizations and businesses in the community," said Spier Francis. "And more than anything, you are representing St. Paul and the Winter Carnival.

A legendary history

For those who don't know, the St. Paul Winter Carnival was founded in 1886 and is held every year in mid-January. The carnival has become well known for its season-themed events such as the winter parade, snowmobile races, ice sculptures and medallion hunt. It has also gained popularity outside of St. Paul for its legendary figures such as the Vulcans, King Boreas and Queen of the Snows.

For the last several decades, the Queen of the Snows organization held their annual tea in anticipation of the Winter Carnival at the home of 1947 Queen of the Snows Helen Murphy on Summit Hill in St. Paul. But for the last two years, Carla LeVander has offered her home for the site of the event.

"I think what I like best about 'Carnival' people is that you see them everywhere," LeVander said. "You see them at church, at chamber of commerce meetings, political events or whatever. They are really community-oriented people. And that's what the Winter Carnival is all about."

Throughout the year members of the Winter Carnival ride in parades across the state, volunteer at senior homes and schools, and serve as ambassadors for St. Paul.

On Sunday, the final half dozen candidates for Queen of the Snows, shared some of their experiences for former queens and judges in attendance.

Patrick McCullough, one of the judges who helps decide who will be crowned Queen of the Snows, said the competition is not a beauty pageant.

"It's about committing to being an ambassador for your community," said McCullough, who was crowned King Boreas in 1999. "That's the number one thing we're looking for in these young women; someone who will show up and give of themselves to making their community better. And making a commitment to the carnival."

LeVander, who mentioned that three other Woodbury residents have served as Queen of the Snows, said that the Winter Carnival takes place in St. Paul, but has spread beyond its municipal borders.

"It's really for everybody," LeVander said. "You get off the couch, put down the remote control, put on your big, wooly socks and have fun in the winter time."

The royal coronation ceremony for the 2009 St. Paul Winter Carnival takes place Thursday, Jan. 22.

For more information on the St. Paul Winter Carnival go to:

For more information on the Queen of the Snows organization go to: