By Blue Earth County Historical Society
MANKATO — As the community prepares this month for a new winter festival, SnowKato Days, it’s good timing to take a look at a previous winter celebration hosted by the city.
A hundred years ago, Mankato sponsored a communitywide celebration of snow and cold weather. The five-day Winter Carnival kicked off with a big parade Jan. 19, 1920.
Its floats represented many organizations and businesses from Mankato. Mayor Erastus V. Watters served as grand marshal. He and the City’s Council members rode through the parade on a float pulled by 100 horses.
Attendees at the festival could enjoy many attractions. An ice palace, built especially for the carnival, rose up near the Bridge Square Depot.
A toboggan run was established on Main Street hill along a streetcar track and between Fifth and Second streets.
A ski slope was created along an incline in a part of town that’s known today as Stadium hill.
Five skiers, well-known at the time, came to compete in a competition during the carnival.
The city built a skating pond near the corner of Front and Main streets. Figure-skating contests took place there throughout the week.
Pond users included St. Paul champion speed skater Raymond Kelley, who came to town to compete in races.
Mushers from throughout the country came to compete in a dog-sled race. Dog sleds started out from the corner of Front and Mulberry streets and raced down Front Street to Marshall Street before they returned to the starting point.
Festival contests included carnival queen and homeliest man competitions. Mankato residents voted for their favorite candidates.
Pauline Koke was named Queen of the Winter Carnival. Pete Ferguson won the title for the latter contest.
After her coronation, Queen Pauline donned plush robes of fur as she kicked off various events and took part in parades.
A monarchy ruled over their town’s “subjects” throughout five days of festivities.
The Carnival Court — along with the queens of various community clubs — initiated a week of activities and shenanigans.
Ferd Hoerr was known as King Ferdinand Rex during his short reign. He and Queen Pauline ruled from their thrones in the ice castle near Union Station Depot.
Some of the king’s many duties took place at the castle, including ceremonies for knighting nobles. He bestowed about Henry Krause one of the carnival’s most notable titles — Valet of the Royal Cow.
Ferdinand Rex determined the punishment for Free Press journalist Felix McKusick, who was tried at the palace and found guilty of wrongs against the king.
For his crimes against the crown, McKusick was sentenced to “...be made to read his own editorials for the period of one week. May God help him.”
Due to the efforts of the Carnival Court and countless volunteers, Mankato was transformed into a winter wonderland during the carnival.
A curio cabinet at the Blue Earth County Historical Society holds photographs and memorabilia about the 1920 Mankato Winter Carnival.
For more information on other historical topics, visit the History Center at 424 Warren St., Mankato, call 345-5566 or visit www.BlueEarthCountyHistory.com.