Local Current Blog

Music at the St. Paul Winter Carnival: Rice Park goes purple

Above: A snowflake sculpture at the St. Paul Winter Carnival in 2012 (Jennifer Simonson/MPR) Below: Paisley Park ice art in 2017, via St. Paul Winter Carnival on Facebook

As the oldest winter carnival in America, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival has been attracting families with its ice sculptures, light displays, and events since 1886, but music is also a big part of the festival.

The free Pabst Winter Carnival Music Series runs from Jan. 26 – Feb. 5 in Rice Park and will showcase local artists almost every evening during the festival. With artists like Charlie Parr along with a mix of other R&B, rock and country groups, the series hopes to bring in a wide range of music lovers.

The music series, which also overlaps with the Twin Cities Winter Jazz Festival, will feature a few local jazz groups as part of the winter carnival — but its main goal is to get music lovers to get outside and embrace the Minnesota winter.

Here’s the music schedule, with artist descriptions from the carnival.

Thursday, Jan. 26
6 p.m.: My Famous Friends — “A fun and unique cover rock duo.”

Friday, Jan. 27
6 p.m.: Poppa Bear Norton — “An old school country hillbilly band with a devil-may-care attitude.”
8 p.m.: Charlie Parr — “This Minnesota music hero has his own take on blues and folk.”

Saturday, Jan. 28
8 p.m.: Trainwreck Duet — “Acoustic with a kick, crazy banter and great music from classic rock to current pop.”

Sunday, Jan. 29
Noon: Walker West Ensemble — “A ‘jazzy’ collection of elementary and middle school students from St. Paul’s Walker West Music Academy.”
1:30 p.m.: McNasty Brass Band — “This fully-acoustic 10-piece dance band will own the stage with its raw, organic mix of brass and drums.”

Tuesday, Jan. 31
6:30 p.m.: Koo Koo Kanga Roo — “Billed as ‘the Beastie Boys meet Sesame Street,’ this comedic dance-pop duo will bring an interactive dance party to Rice Park.”

Wednesday, Feb. 1
5:15 p.m.: Mariachi Jalisco — “Playing the sound of the heart and soul of Mexico: mariachi.”
6 p.m.: West Side Band — “Established over 30 years ago, these R&B/Rockers are inducted in the Mid-America Music Hall of Fame.”

Thursday, Feb. 2
6 p.m.: White Iron Band – “Delivering a distinctive mix of blues, country and Americana roots music.”

Friday, Feb. 3
6 p.m.: Trailer Trash — “This ‘band from honky-tonk heaven’ bring traditional country music along with swing, rock, and groove.”
8 p.m.: Maiden Dixie — “A six-member group performing original and cover music with a kinetic blend of country, pop, and rock.”

Saturday, Feb. 4
4 p.m.: Dirty Shorts Brass Band — “A New Orleans-style brass band, playing everything from jazz to Dixie to funk to blues to rock n’ roll to gospel to swing…and back.”
7:30 p.m.: Chase & Ovation — “The renowned Minneapolis-based Prince tribute band will perform under the glow of a ‘purple’ Rice Park.”


Simone Cazares is a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas, majoring in communication and journalism. Originally from Miami, Fla., she survives Minnesota’s cruel winters by immersing herself in the Twin Cities music scene.