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934th captain serves community as Winter Carnival royalty

  • Published
  • By Paul Zadach
  • 934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

In 1885 a New York reporter wrote that Saint Paul, Minn. Was, "another Siberia, unfit for human habitation in winter."  Offended by this, the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce decided to prove that St. Paul was not only habitable, but that it was a fun place to be.  Capt. Christine Schrader, 934th Operations Support Squadron,  grew up in Woodbury, Minn., not far from St. Paul, so she knows all about Minnesota winters.  She knows how to survive them, and how to make the most of them.  And she made the most of one of the coldest and snowiest winters in history by serving as the 2014 Winter Carnival east wind princess.

The Carnival dates back to 1886 where the legend goes that King Boreas, came upon a winter paradise known as Minnesota.  Overcome by its beauty, the king made St. Paul the capitol of all his domains and proclaimed it as the winter playground of the Realm of Boreas.  Meanwhile, Vulcanus Rex, the god of fire and enemy of Boreas, pledged to temper the blustering of Boreas with the heat and roar of all his forces.  Today, the legend lives on with King Boreas and his royal court, and the Vulcan Krewe who try to disrupt the festivities.

The duties of the King and the 30 or so members of his court are far from over when the snow melts and warmer temperatures arrive.  The Carnival is now one of the strongest community organizations in Minnesota with the Royal Family making over 400 appearances and supporting many causes in the Twin Cities as well as locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Being selected for the Royal Court is a three month process.  During this time Schrader participated in a number of community events such as a Feed my Starving Children food drive, visits to nursing homes, hospitals and food banks where she was evaluated on her ability to interact with people and to be a positive influence on their lives.  She also faced a panel of judges who asked her questions about her thoughts on community service, history of the Winter Carnival and just about any other subject they could come up with.

Since her coronation in January Schrader has made hundreds of appearances and visits as the east wind princess.  " I especially like going to the nursing homes and hospitals and talking to veterans," she said.  "One of the events that really sticks in my mind is when we visited a children's hospital for a benefit event, and there was a six year old girl there who had terminal brain cancer.  Her one wish was to meet a princess.   She was in an audience of about 800 people and one of our royal guards had a Cinderella slipper they had placed on a knighting pillow.  The guard went through the audience trying the slipper on different people, and when they got to that little girl, the slipper fit.  We brought her on stage and gave her a tiara and she got to meet the royal court.  She was very weak and it was hard for her to talk, but she was absolutely beaming with joy having realized her wish." 

"We did a Wounded Warrior project earlier in the year that I really enjoyed .  I  like doing the military events because of my connection to it.  Our royal court does have quite a bit of military background.  Our king is former Navy, our west wind prince is a retired special force Army colonel who was a helicopter pilot. Our south wind guard is former Navy and one of our Vulcans is a reservist with the 934th Civil Engineer Squadron."

When Schrader was growing up her parents would take her to the Carnival festivities which included the parade, snow sculptures and the famous ice castle.  "I really have always loved the winter carnival ever since I can remember," she said.  Now that she is part of the royal family, she is involved in appearances and events almost every day. "We almost always attend events as the entire royal family.  We did about 100 events in January and will do another 300 throughout the rest of the year.  I have missed a few because of UTAs and annual tour, but I've been able to arrange my schedule so I can make most of them.  People really love to see us, the king, the guards and all the regalia, it's pretty impressive."  Many of the events also involve the spouses of the royal family so Shrader's husband, Capt. Brandon Schrader, a C-130 pilot with the 934th also gets involved.  "Brandon has been very supportive of my role as the east wind princess," she said. "However, growing up in Wisconsin, at first he didn't really know the full extent of what the Winter Carnival was all about.  I think he's learned that it's a lot more than just putting on a costume and waving at people from a float in a parade."

Schrader thinks her career in the Air Force has contributed to her success as winter carnival royalty.  "I think the Air Force helped me develop my self confidence and public speaking ability which is essential in this role.  It has also helped me develop the ability to solve problems and think on my feet," she added. 
People are quite surprised to find out that Schrader is an Air Force officer when they ask her what she does outside of her princess role.  "A lot of people think that because we look the way we do, that we are one dimensional and couldn't possibly do something as serious or important as being in the military."  The winter carnival however, requires candidates to have a well rounded background with a variety of skills and experiences. "Our South Wind Princess is a
nurse, our North Wind Princess works in Financial Aide at a local College," said Schrader.  "My fellow members of the Royal family don't know a lot about the Air Force, but they do recognize the C-130s.  Sometimes they will fly over our parades and one of our members will say, 'Hey Christine, there's your planes!'"

While Schrader's reign as the east wind princess will come to an end in January, she will still be able to participate in many of the events as a member of the past princess association.  "It's been an honor and a privilege to be a part of this organization," she said.  "The Winter Carnival is something I've loved since I was a little kid, I hope to be a part of it for a long time to come."