13.1.12

Red Bull Gives You Crowds

[Tongue contraption extending from the Catholics to the Interstate.]
I hang out around the St. Paul Cathedral a lot, and a few weeks back I noticed the strange construction occurring on Summit Avenue. I guess I didn't think much about it, but it turns out its part of this event called Red Bull Crashed Ice, a semi-crazy skating / luge race that started in Sweden and is sponsored by Red Bull.

Apparently, Red Bull's marketing approach is to have these huge crazy events set in various cities around the world. And its a great thing for cities! A year and a half ago, Red Bull brought their "Flugtag" contest to the riverfront in downtown St Paul, and I have never in my life seen such crowds in my Midwestern small city. It was great fun.

And now Red Bull is back with another huge Rube Goldberg event. I'm glad they like St. Paul so much. Maybe repeated association with Red Bull will help us re-brand our quiet town. Until this point, I've always considered St Paul to be "the city that sleeps."



Massive crowds are expected (75,000 people). And so everyone who's anyone in downtown or Cathedral Hill is talking about the Crashed Ice (Especially those in the restaurant industry.) It's quite the exceptional moment!

[Just an average day in downtown St Paul in 1935.]
For me, though, an event like this is a rare chance to glimpse what downtown life was like back when downtowns had high densities on a regular basis.

As I mentioned after the Flugtag, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and every city in America used to be able to generate crowds on a regular basis. This amount of foot traffic was semi-normal. This amount of people wanting food and drink, strolling around the city, and clustering on the Cathedral steps was not that unusual. It's one reason why so many department stores, shops, and caf├ęs were located downtown. 

If you happen to find yourself in St Paul for the Crashed Ice spectacle, pause for a moment and imagine a world with downtown density. Imagine what St. Paul would be like if the streets were filled with people. I'm not saying that downtowns were always packed and crowded. They weren't. But crowds that today seem shockingly large wouldn't have been out of the ordinary in the pre-suburbanized city. Even in a place as seemingly average as St. Paul, Minnesota.

 [A large crowd gathered on the steps of the St Paul Cathedral to watch the 1938 Winter Carnival parade. Img. MNHS.]

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Maybe repeated association with Red Bull will help us re-brand our quiet town. " Surely you jest!

Bill Lindeke said...

[over-amped male voice]

SAINT PAUL MINNESOTAAA! brought to you by RED BULL!!!

[hyperactive jump cuts]

...etc.