Weekend for winter-lovers: Loppet, Winter Carnival, art shanties and more

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Maybe February means Minnesotans can get out from under the weather, and start enjoying winter.

The Star Tribune says 10,000 people may participate in Loppet events this weekend, with 20,000 more watching. Snow-shoeing and dogsledding are on the 21-event roster for the first time, as well as winter bike races, a snow sculpture contest and the beloved Luminary Loppet around Lake of the Isles Saturday night.

"The urban cross country ski festival" continues Sunday with events for young skiers and skiers pulled by dogs in a sport called skijoring.

On the east side of the river, the Winter Carnival has plenty scheduled for its concluding weekend. An outdoor baseball game will take place Saturday afternoon at Midway Stadium. Family day events will go on all afternoon at the Landmark Center, and a German culture fest will turn into a night-time dance at the German American Insitute on Summit Avenue. Of course the crowning event is the Vulcan Torchlight Parade, followed by the overthrow of King Boreas in Rice Park, and fireworks launched from Raspberry Island.

The Winter Carnival ice sculptures are in no danger of thawing. They're on display in Rice Park. The Twin Cities Daily Planet has a photo gallery.

Saturday is opening weekend for the Art Shanty Projects, which move to White Bear Lake this year. Spectators are expected to gawk at artsy ice houses, each with a theme and an opportunity to play. Previous years have seen dance shanties, giant robots, and funky pedal contraptions. A Sparkle Day Parade at 1 p.m. Saturday encourages participants to dress up in shiny materials.

For the super adventurous (or foolhardy), there's a Polar Plunge in Maple Grove. FOX 9, one of the sponsors, calls it "freezin' for a reason," as participants raise money to support the Special Olympics. Plunges are scheduled statewide through March 15.

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