Scientists maintain that absolute zero is the coldest possible temperature, a point beyond which matter ceases to exist and the laws of physics categorically prevent the occurrence of.  We laud scientists for such great discoveries as electricity, Irish coffee, and the Frankenstein monster, but we Minnesotans know there’s a coldness even greater than absolute zero.  We call it winter, and we will hold The Great Northern in its honor.

The Great Northern festival will unite the St. Paul Winter Carnival, which is the nation’s oldest and largest of its kind, the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, and the City of Lakes Loppet.  This cheerful amalgam of neat things to see and do will be so great that just writing about it is giving me heart palpitations.  Here are some of those things:

Ice Carvings (Rice Park, All day)

Ice does more than dam roofs and preserve mammoths.  It’s also the ideal medium to fashion into extravagant, ephemeral statues with chainsaws.  Rice Park becomes the carnival’s home to a variety of creative visions, all translucent and solid as granite or delicate as crystal.  The intricacy bestowed on these forms is awe inspiring, a testament to man’s will to create in a changing and destructive universe.  Or maybe they’re just pretty statues.

Frozen Film Festival (Landmark Center, Feb 1 @ 5 PM – Feb 4 @ 1 PM)

The Frozen Film Festival is a patent of the Midwest’s place at the pinnacle of the world’s film scene.  There you can see independent movies made by local and international filmmakers all in one place.  If you have a little girl and really want a good laugh, tell them you’re taking them to the Frozen Film Festival and watch her reaction as she realizes she’s about to watch a movie about Myanmarese fishermen instead of Disney princesses.

Ledermann Boot Hockey Tournament (Wells Fargo WinterSkate, Landmark Plaza, Feb 4, 7 AM – 12 PM)

If you love hockey but hate skating, are over 21, and aren’t aware of how much it hurts to slip and fall on ice, you’re going to have the best time ever at the Ledermann Boot Hockey Tournament.  There randomly formed teams of five to six people will square off in order to determine once and for all who’s the best at boot hockey.  The boot karate tournament will be held shortly thereafter, with all proceeds going to the Brain Injury Association of America.

City of Lakes Loppet (Theodore Wirth Park & Uptown, Feb 3 – Feb 5)

Scandinavian culture is primarily based around finding things to do with snow other than die in it.  In this tradition the City of Lakes Loppet will feature a 25K speed skating race (I looked it up — 25K is equal to 55 lbs in American measurement), fireworks, a snow sculpture contest, Captain Ken’s Kubb Tournament (think Swedish lawn darts), myriad cross-country skiing events, skijoring (that’s where you put on skis and reevaluate your life while your dog pulls you around like he’s a miniature, meat-powered sleigh horse), and even a fat tire bike race.  Beer will be served.

This only scratches the surface of the fun that The Great Northern festival offers.  There are also three parades, the Beer Dabbler, the Pioneer Press Treasure Hunt, the Securian Winter Run, the giant snow slide (over 110 feet long!), the snow sculpting competition, and much, much more!  Go there to keep the festive holiday spirit alive and bubbling — or go to see the prettiest cat in Minnesota.  There are no bad reasons to go to The Great Northern.

By Dave Scheller