Spirit of winter and Viking snow sculptures.
Spirit of winter and Viking snow sculptures on the lower quad, 1971.

Tales from the Archives: Mid-Winter Celebrations

While the annual Saint Paul Winter Carnival, with its signature parade and medallion hunt, may be more well known, St. Thomas has had a long tradition hosting its own mid-winter celebrations.

St. Thomas’ first Mid-Winter Frolic was held on Feb. 11, 1938. Sponsored by the Inter-Club Council, the event was held in the Armory building and presided over by Marion O’Hara, the queen of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. The evening featured a dance with music by “Cec” Hurst and the Marigold Orchestra, an ice cream eating contest and an assortment of door prizes for the attendees.

By the late 1950s, the Mid-Winter Frolic expanded to a weeklong celebration of winter. A variety of activities were sponsored including skiing and speedskating demonstrations, a “beard growing” contest, toboggan races and ice skating parties. The Mid-Winter Queen, chosen by the student body, was crowned at the pinnacle event of the week, the Mid-Winter Frolic dance.

The annual event was renamed the Mid-Winter Carnival in 1964 and co-sponsored with the College of St. Catherine. While keeping the traditional dance with the selection of a royal court (including a king beginning in 1972), the carnival expanded its slate of activities for students to enjoy. A broomball tournament, carnival games in the Armory, a medallion hunt, dog sled races, snow tubing, and a snow sculpting contest were just some of the activities on the week’s itinerary.

The event was renamed Mid-Winter Week in 1978. Over the next 15 years, the organizers added several nontraditional activities to the Mid-Winter Week schedule. A sunbathing contest, the Bobby Knight chair throwing contest and a coed Mid-Winter Olympics featuring snow volleyball, softball, tobogganing, and soccer games were among the most popular events. The final Mid-Winter Week was held in 1991.