Museum Musings: The first winter carnival

Submitted An winter carnival advertisement from a February 1926 edition of the Prince Albert Daily Herald.

With the 59th Winter Festival heating up this week, I decided to look back on the first such festivities held here in Prince Albert. I was surprised to find nothing of substance within the files of the Bill Smiley Archives, but I certainly found much of interest as I searched the archives of the Prince Albert Daily Herald!

Although we have known it as a Winter Festival since our current frosty celebration was originated in 1965, the original activity was known as a carnival. I assume there must have been some preliminary meetings, but the first publicised meeting was held in City Hall chambers on Thursday, January 7th, 1926. A story headlined “Is Prince Albert To Promote Dog Derby Carnival?” was published in the January 5th edition of the newspaper. It indicated that Mayor S.J.A. Branion would preside over a public meeting, and that a pro-tem committee would present a report. If agreed to by those in attendance, the idea of holding such an event would be further pursued.

Although some criticism of the proposal was raised at the meeting. It appears that some of those in attendance suggested that the proposed event might lead to “doubtful and perhaps injurious publicity” for the city. But the majority of those in attendance felt determined to pursue the matter further. Based on the report of the pro-tem committee, the estimated cost of such an event was $3,500, with estimated receipts of $1,500. This led to the appointment of a further committee to canvass the community in order to try to raise financial guarantees amounting to $2,000 from the community. Members of this committee included individuals such as Henry Lacroix, Alderman Mark Musk, Dr. R.L. King, Eddy Connolly, and R.D. Brooks.

The January 11th edition of the Daily Herald carried a headline that read: “Winter Carnival In Prince Albert Is Now Assured”. The committee appointed to seek guarantees had been successful in achieving their goal (and more), and a further meeting to be held on January 12th would elect the necessary officers to complete the formation of the Winter Carnival Association.

At that January 12th meeting, Eddy Connolly was unanimously chosen as the Carnival manager, while Henry Lacroix was elected president. Lacroix was the president of Lacroix Brothers, an electrical supply firm as well as vice-president of the Curling Club and chairman of the Collegiate School trustees . Dr. R.L. King, president of the local Liberal association, was selected as first vice-president. J.P. Curror, the secretary of the Prince Albert Board of Trade, was elected as the secretary of the organisation. The members of the newly established finance committee were left to appoint the treasurer of the organisation.

In addition to the executive, a number of committees were identified, including Carnival Queen, Finance, Advertising, Dance, Reception, Transportation, Decoration, Hockey, Dog Derby, Auditor, and Community Entertainment. Membership of these committees included many prominent Prince Albertans including the CNR divisional engineer Leonard Daynes (who sat on the transportation committee); the Dominion Tax Assessor Percy Ralls; the manager of McDermid Lumber, John McDermid; Jack Sanderson; Fred Shnay; P.W. Mahon; J.B. Kernaghan; Fire Chief John Smith; and Hal Fraser.

On the 14th of January, it was announced that the Winter Carnival would be held from March 1st to March 4th. This announcement came just one short week after the first public meeting, and a mere month and a half before the Carnival was to be held.

On the 18th of January, the committee announced that the purse for the dog derby race would total $1,200. This would be the largest dog derby purse in Canada. As a result, the competitors were expected to be the pick of the best from races held in The Pas, Banff, and Quebec. Fifty-mile heats would be held on an oval track on each of the four days of the Carnival. Given the layout of the track, the dog teams were expected to be easily viewed by the spectators for the majority of the race.

Two couriers were also visiting the towns and villages along the rail lines leading to Prince Albert with the intent of identifying young ladies to participate in the Carnival Queen competition. Each Queen candidate would be provided with books of tickets to be sold and, based upon the number sold, they would receive points which would determine their placing in the competition. The Queen would receive her choice of a set of silverware or a diamond ring. Each of four princesses would receive a pearl necklace. The Queen and her princesses would be driven from event to event at the Carnival in a closed car, a novelty in those days.

Announcements about the Carnival were being released every day or two. On the 20th, it was announced that there would be a dance held at the Armouries on each of the four nights of the Carnival. The Art Harmony Six, a renowned western Canadian jazz band from Saskatoon, would play on the Monday and Tuesday evenings, while a local band called the Sheiks would play on the Wednesday night, and another local band, The Night Hawks, would play on the Thursday night.

Daily hockey games would be held to determine the Northern Saskatchewan championship, with the winners receiving the Dunning Cup. The following day, it was announced that the T.C. Davis Cup would be awarded to the winners of the broomball tournament, and on February 26th, an announcement was made that the J.G. Diefenbaker Cup would be awarded to the winners of the ladies’ hockey tournament.
The Canadian National Railway announced that they would provide special rates for travellers on their rail line. Those attending the Carnival could travel return from Humboldt, Totzke, Saskatoon, North Battleford, Big River, or locations in between at 1 1/3 the cost of a regular ticket, provided that they travelled between February 27th and March 5th.

William Wolman, a local fur merchant, donated a gift of a regal robe for the Queen to wear on ‘state occasions’. The cloak was specially made from white rabbit fur, trimmed with fox. The Queen would also wear a crown manufactured locally by Annie Sellar, a partner in the millinery firm of Lundlie & Sellar.

In addition to the Queen contest, there was to be a beauty contest as part of the Carnival. A former member of the Northwest Mounted Police, Charles Levey, had returned to Great Britain when he had left the force. Levey continued to be a strong promoter of western Canada, and of Prince Albert in particular, and he had donated a silver trophy, as well as a gold medal for the winner of the competition and silver medals for the two runners-up. Miss Helen Robertson, along with William Durlish and William James were to be the judges for this event.
As well as the four dances at the Armouries, evening events included a performance of ‘The Chimes of Normandy’ by local actors and musicians. Mrs. C.R. Webb conducted the orchestra, with vocal performances by Mrs. F. Kisbey, Mrs. T.J. Conroy, H.W. Davy, Alex Horne, C.J Ryley, and A. Howard.

Transportation to each of the evening dances at the Armouries was provided via sleighs from pick-up points throughout the city, including the Collegiate, the Fire Hall, and the Patriote office. One thousand people attended the Monday night event, with several hundred each of Tuesday and Wednesday evening, and two thousand in attendance on Thursday evening. In addition to the dancing, there were demonstrations of the Charleston and of the French waltz. The ladies of St. Alban’s Cathedral provided the supper served at each of the evening dances.

Those who attended the hockey games were entertained not only by the play of the participating teams, but also by music supplied by the Prince Albert City Band, which had won the 1923 provincial shield at the Saskatchewan music festival. Between periods, entertainment was also supplied by Mr. Howe, a barrel jumper.

Aside from the many competitions for the trophies which had been donated, there were many events in which youngsters could participate. I noted that the winners of the Human Rooster Fight were Maxwell Carment and Jack Kilpatrick. Other events for the boys were Pulling a Girl on a Sled, Catching the Greasy Pig (made the more difficult because the competition was on the river ice), the Rolling Snowball Race, and the Hot Dog Race. Events for the girls included Finding the Marked Boy (which was won by Joan Thompson), the Snowshoe Race, and the Pulling a Boy on a Sled (won by Margaret McKilligan).

Bertha McCarl won the Queen competition and received a cabinet of silverware. The princesses were each awarded a prize of a $75 value of their own choosing. Topsy Valade was deemed the Carnival’s beauty queen, and was awarded the Charles Levey Cup. The Princess Royal was Kathryn Flynn (also of Prince Albert), who received a gold medal, and Florence Kraeling of Melfort received a silver medal as the princess of the pageant.

The Premier King Trophy for the dog derby was won by Ross Moxley of The Pas. He also received $700. First runner-up was Big River’s Verner Johnson, who received $300, with the second runner-up, Harvey Olensky (of The Pas) receiving $200.
The C.A. Dunning Cup, emblematic of Northern Saskatchewan’s hockey championship, was won by the Prince Albert Senators. They defeated Kinistino 1-0 on a goal by Joe Woodman.

The J.G. Diefenbaker Cup remained in Prince Albert as the ladies’ hockey team from the Collegiate beat Melfort 2–1. Lucy McBeath and Lillian Wade scored for the Collegiate, while Melfort’s loan goal came from the stick of Mary Sefton.
The Hon. T.C. Davis Cup was won by the Penitentiary, who beat the Sally Anns by a score of 2-0 in front of the largest crowd ever to witness a broomball game in Prince Albert history.

The winner of the Boys’ Derby and the CNR Athletic & Social Association Cup, was Cecil Wade.
At the end of March 1926, an audited statement for the Carnival indicated that a profit of $3,218.22 had been made. It became clear that the City of Prince Albert, as well as the surrounding communities, had made the first Winter Carnival a great success.
SUBHEADLINE: Corrections and updates

I recently received an email from the grand-daughter of Ella Muzzy. She had read the column which I wrote about Prince Albert’s first woman member of our City Council. She pointed out that, although I had indicated that Mrs. Muzzy had died in 1948, she actually died in 1961. She also indicated that I had suggested that Mrs. Muzzy had had two daughters when, in fact, she had had three daughters (Winnifred, Vera, and Helen).

Ella Muzzy’s story was one which I felt needed to be told, and the column was based upon the information which is held in the Bill Smiley Archives. That information was limited, and obviously inaccurate, especially with respect to Mrs. Muzzy’s life after she left Prince Albert and moved to Saskatoon.

I am grateful to receive these corrections. It adds to the information base which we hold at the Bill Smiley Archives, and allows us to correct the on-line column which from this point will contain correct information.