Whitefish Winter Carnival Picks Up Steam

By Beacon Staff

It’s almost February, and for more than 50 years in the Flathead, that means it’s just about time for a king, a queen, a smattering of yetis, horses pulling skiers over jumps, human-sized penguins, a plunge into the freezing water of Whitefish Lake, and all sorts of way to shake off winter’s cabin fever.

Whitefish Winter Carnival LV is here, with the main weekend of festivities taking place from Feb. 7-9. National Geographic has hailed the carnival as one of the “Top 10 winter festivals” in the world, and Frodor’s Travel listed it as one of the North America’s Best Winter Snow Sport Festivals.

But don’t take their word for it: Find out for yourself why the Whitefish Winter Carnival is going into its 55th year, and is only getting better. Here are the basics of what you should know.

The Legend
The winter carnival started 55 years ago as a way for residents to get out of their houses and socialize with their neighbors during the cold, dark Flathead winter. The whole event is based around the legend of the god Ullr, his Snow Queen, and their Prime Minister, who are rumored to live on Big Mountain.

Ullr, the Queen and the Prime Minister had searched for years for somewhere to settle, and found the Flathead’s beauty to be the perfect setting. Eventually, humans came to the valley, and at first the winter god was wary. But he found out the humans treated him as a patron saint for their winter celebrations, so he disguised himself as a human and stopped by one of their parties.

Ullr found he liked the people of the Flathead, and each winter, he, the Queen and the Prime Minister grace Whitefish with their presence, celebrating the winter with the townsfolk. But the king and queen aren’t alone on the Big – on the other side of the mountain, yetis stir, and hope to cause mischief and disrupt the festivals. The yetis also attempt to capture the Queen of the Snows, but are warded off each year by Ullr and his loyal followers, which includes a feisty band of Valkyries.

This year, Ullr takes form in Mark Svennungsen, and the Queen of the Snows is Sue Schenck. John Peschel is the Prime Minister, and Miriam Lewis is the Duchess of Lark.

The Theme
To keep the event fresh, and to sharpen the creative skills in the Flathead Valley, each winter carnival has a theme. This year, it is Viva Las Vegas. Paul Johannsen, the chair of the carnival committee, said it was an easy fit since this is the 55th year of the carnival, and 55 in Roman numerals is LV.

Having a theme to each party helps keep revelers in the present, and it also provides an opportunity for some crazy and delightful floats in the Grand Parade. Johannsen said there is still plenty of space for more floats in the parade, and anyone interested should visit the carnival’s website at www.whitefishwintercarnival.com to either sign up online or download an application. There is also a list of parade ordinances available.

And what would a Las Vegas theme be without Mr. Las Vegas himself? Check out page 7 for info on this year’s Grand Marshal, the one and only Wayne Newton.

The Beer Barter
What would you do or trade for a year’s supply of beer from the Great Northern Brewing Company?

That’s the question the brewery has been asking carnival revelers for four years, leading to extraordinary feats of talent and shocking displays of commitment to good beer during the annual Beer Barter and Talent Show.

Whoever presents the most compelling trade or talent will win 52 cases of the brewery’s beer: Wheatfish Wheat Lager, Going to the Sun IPA, and Wild Huckleberry Wheat Lager. That’s 24 beers a week, and 1,248 beers for the year.

Previous competitions have included fire dancers, an aerial silk dancer, a couple who offered to trade their live yak, offerings from wood workers, and plenty more.

Giving away the brewery’s lineup of beer is a change from previous barters, according to the brewery, which traded for a year of Black Star Beer. Another big change in this year’s barter is the opportunity for pre-registration, instead of just registering on the day of the show.

And following the barter, the brewery will host a party in the Draught House to celebrate its 19th anniversary, which will include plenty of toasts, live music and entertainment.

Anyone interested in participating in the barter and talent show should call Jessica Lucey at the brewery, at 406-862-1000, ex. 2. For more information on the brewery, visit www.greatnorthernbrewing.com.

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