One of Lisa Jacobson’s pinky nails is painted Icy Boreas Blue. The other is a fiery vulcan red.
When the president of the St. Paul Winter Carnival spoke on a recent afternoon, she absentmindedly clanged two colors together. St. Paul As she heads into her second Carnival as CEO of the Festival and Heritage Foundation, “Uniting us all” is her personal motto.
Boreas and Vulcanus Rex are, of course, the warring kings of winter and summer in Carnival’s century-old legend, but more importantly, all of St. Paul’s increasingly diverse communities come together to celebrate the city. That’s it.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m here. It’s about helping people figure out what to do,” Jacobson said. He said.
To drive institutions towards real change, we need to look inside the structures that underpin the organization, so to speak. Interviews with Jacobson and six current and former Carnival and character group leaders reveal how the changing approaches to the machinery behind the Winter Carnival are critical to building a more inclusive and representative festival. It is clear that it is a step.
A welcome, hands-on approach
Less than a month after Jacobson assumed the role of Supreme Leader of the Carnival in August 2021, the Royal Knights of Klondike Cates — the previous year’s “Mistresses of Fun, Flirty, and Friendship” ‘s active alumni network—was performing at the State Fair.
Like all independent non-profit organizations for ex-characters, the Royal Knights of Klondike Cates does not fall under the formal authority of St. Paul’s Festival and the Heritage Foundation, but Jacobson would like to introduce himself anyway. I thought I would stop by.
The Kate family was pleasantly surprised to see Carnival’s CEO take the time to do this.
Paula Berens, who was “knocked out” as Kate in 2005, said, “It was unprecedented.
Shortly thereafter, the Knights of the Royal Guard, another independent alumni network of the guards of Winter Carnival legend, joined regularly scheduled meetings. Once again Jacobson was there.
Her particularly hands-on leadership style was welcomed, said a representative of Vulcan, the current royal family, and the Klondike Cates. Jacobson seems to enjoy a higher level of respect and acceptance from members than his more recent predecessors, as he’s committed to learning about the essential elements of each character organization.
Reeder said this will not only help Carnival better serve its character group, but also better implement necessary changes and share new ideas from the top.
One such development is a deliberate shift towards outreach to the larger community.
For example, in Carnival’s new London Nights event on February 2nd, Jacobson is partnering with advocates and artists with deep ties to the city’s historically black neighborhoods. Going forward, Jacobson hopes to dedicate each winter carnival night to spotlighting different communities within St. Paul.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Winter Carnival representatives met with St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter to discuss their inclusion efforts. These discussions have stalled for the past few years. Jacobson said recent meetings between the mayor and the new King of Boreas were productive.
The outgoing royal family is also working toward this goal, said Christine Arme, who played the role of the prime minister’s high-ranking logistical character this year. , and other cultural events. And the abdicating King of Boreas, Billy Given, chose the Rondo Center for Diverse Expression as his public charity during his reign.
“I think we have to do more than just say everyone is welcome,” said Jacobson, who recently concluded his term as mayor of Brooklyn Park. You have to be more intentional about how you shine a spotlight on or throughout the 10 days and what you do.”
Dismantling Structural Barriers at Winter Carnival
Jacobson says he wants people to see themselves regardless of where they grew up in the city or the world by looking at photos from the Winter Carnival event. Yet deeper structural barriers remain.
For one thing, the stereotypes that once surrounded carnival character groups have proven difficult to dispel. The days of unsupervised and aggressive Vulcans are long gone, Jacobson repeated in several conversations. Some women who might be interested in becoming Klondike Kate say she fears professional influence from people unfamiliar with her legend and costume, telling Kate of the past few years. expressed.
Additionally, taking on character roles can be expensive and time-consuming. I have attended more than 300 official functions in , which is no small thing for people with jobs and families.
Actual out-of-pocket costs will also be added. Characters are responsible for securing sponsorships to cover a portion, said outgoing Prime Minister Ahmeh, but sponsors are not obligated to contribute standardized amounts. For a new crew member, for example, Vulcan estimates an upfront investment of about $1,500 to purchase a costume and a Fire King ring, plus thousands of dollars more in travel expenses.
But when one group of characters pushes forward or prioritizes certain values, greater collaboration within Carnival’s behind-the-scenes organizational structure offers the potential for broader progress across all characters. means that there is
On the expense side, the Royal Order of Klondike Cates has begun using a portion of the organization’s revenues towards the goal of covering all of the next Kate’s expenses during the 10 days of Winter Carnival. She still has expenses for the rest of the year, but it’s a boost that helps make the role more accessible, with Jacobson using her position to help implement it in other Alumni character groups. The idea is that it is possible.
Over the past few decades, the Vulcans have worked to reconnect with their founding legend of spreading warmth to people through altruism and community service, says Vulcanus Rex LXXV nearly ten years ago, then Imperial. Order Fire President Steve Robertson said. & Brimstone – Vulcans own charitable alumni group – and St. Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation board member.
The focus is on in-house training. For example, the upcoming Vulcanus Rex will receive three separate training manuals each year. Part of crew member onboarding takes place at Oakland Cemetery in Montfort’s graveyard for Delos, the creator of fanciful carnival legends who served as the first Fire Lord.
“We no longer represent ourselves. We represent a 137-year tradition,” said Robertson. “These challenges provided an opportunity to deepen our understanding of who we are and what the tradition of the Vulcan name itself is.”
For Robertson, an ordained Lutheran minister, abstaining from alcohol and growing up in the early 1960s who never missed a winter Carnival parade, everything is a carnival legend, and the carnival legend is almost theological. It’s a thing. Food drives, fundraisers, and community visits are all ways to spread the warmth of the Fire King and remind each other that better days are ahead.
For Carnival Winter, all Carnival characters receive a detailed protocol manual and undergo a series of training workshops called Legendary Character Development.
There are various scenarios that unfold. Perhaps the royal family shows up at schools and nursing homes. The King and Queen may be asked to introduce a welfare gala. Maybe Klondike Kate is representing St. Paul in Canada, or in Florida at other civic festivals.
Each person needs to know their role in the legend back and forth. You’ll also have to learn dozens of pages worth of protocols and behavioral guidelines that your characters must follow. The rules of the Festival Foundation, and the penalties for breaking them, apply only to the Reigning Legend her character.
However, each independent alumni group has its own protocol guide. Strictly speaking, Carnival and its network of character groups are separate entities. Functionally, however, like planets and their satellites, they are almost gravitationally locked together.
Williams, Kate of 2019, said, “It just makes us feel supported by ‘Mothership.’ We do our best to support Mothership.”
Then—as Klondike Cates tend to do—Williams. Berends, Kate in 2005. Kristen Oster, Kate of 2017, naturally began singing during group conversations.
“It’s a winter carnival — let’s be happy!” the trio sang in unison. “Cates is here to show you the way!”
With a group of characters invested in her trajectory, Jacobson is able to work closely with them to ensure that every aspect of Carnival is consistent in its move toward a more inclusive direction.
“I think people are waiting for us to innovate and pivot a little bit as an organization, and that will happen over time, by design,” Jacobson said. “Whenever you have an organization as old as ours, you need a great partner in the community to help it. You can’t do it yourself.