By Nan Royce
HOWARD LAKE Heather Westling, former resident of Howard Lake, and a 1997 graduate of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, has been busy lately. Royally busy, in fact.
Westling was crowned the 2018 Winter Carnival East Wind Princess Jan. 26.
Westling’s friend, Carrie Paetow Anderson, also an HLWW High School graduate, introduced her to the Winter Carnival three years ago.
“Carrie is the 2013 West Wind Princess,” Westling said. “And she was trying to talk me into becoming a candidate for the Winter Carnival Royal Family.”
Icing her interest
Anderson took Westling to the first annual Vulcan Booyah fundraiser in October 2015. Westling was charmed by the friendly people she met there.
“How can you not want to be a part of this community of people,” Westling remembers wondering at the time. “I’ve been hooked ever since,” she said.
Her course to the Winter Carnival
Following high school graduation, Westling attended Winona State University, and majored in communication studies, with a minor in marketing. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in 2002.
Following college, Westling took a really huge leap, and moved to London, England.
She worked with a London-based program, which allowed her to live and work in the city, while traveling throughout western Europe. Westling still refers to her London adventure as “the best time of my life.”
At the conclusion of the overseas program, Westling returned to Minnesota.
She worked in downtown Minneapolis for a few years, before furthering her education by obtaining a master of science degree in speech-language pathology from St. Cloud State University. Westling was inspired to follow this career path while watching a speech pathologist work with her father, Brad, who had survived a severe stroke.
Westling then worked in a school setting, before changing to rehab services in the medical setting. She now works for Aegis Therapies, Inc., a rehabilitation company.
Westling has lived in Hopkins for the past eight years, where she enjoys spending time with dog, Pippi, a morkie.
HLWW and Cokato residents may be most familiar with her brother and sister-in-law, Josh and Kelli Westling, who both teach at HLWW and live in Cokato.
This year was Westling’s third time as a candidate for becoming part of the St. Paul Winter Carnival Royal Family.
Perseverance pays off
“To be chosen to the Royal Family, women go through a 10-to-12 week candidacy process,” Westling reported. “Each candidate is required to obtain a sponsor for her candidacy.
“We attended about 25 to 30 Winter Carnival and charitable events, participated in two sets of interviews with the judges, and attended informational classes to prepare us to become members of the Winter Carnival Royal Family if we are chosen,” Westling said.
The crowning achievement
The current Winter Carnival’s Royal Coronation, which has taken place annually since 1886, took place at the Saint Paul RiverCentre.
Five women are chosen to serve as Aurora, Queen of the Snows, and the North, East, West, and South Wind Princesses.
Throughout the carnival, Westling portrays the East Wind Princess by wearing her own favorite color, purple.
The East Wind Princess is supposed to be mysterious and mischievous.
“I am also responsible for snow days off school,” and for children believing in fairy tales,” Westling said.
Playing her part
The princess job is an arduous one. “After coronation, the royal family participates in 10 days of Winter Carnival,” Westling reported, “The royal family enjoys spreading the legend, cheer, and service throughout the Twin Cities area,” Westling said. The commitment to the role lasts for the entire year.
“Throughout our year of reign, we will make between 350 to 400 appearances at various places, including schools, skilled nursing facilities, homeless shelters, and hospitals,” Westling said. “We will be volunteering our time and talents.”
Although Westling’s time as the East Wind Princess will conclude at next January’s coronation, she intends to remain active in the organization.
“I plan to be involved in Winter Carnival far beyond my 2018 reign,” she said. “My plan will be to participate on committees with the Past Princess Association, as well as the ambassadors.”
She looks forward to more opportunities to volunteer and spread good cheer.
“I want to continue to help spread the legend of the winter carnival throughout the country, and continue to serve my community in any way I can,” Westling said.
Although the 2018 Winter Carnival concludes tomorrow, Westling offers a few nuggets of knowledge for those wishing to attend in the future.
The Winter Carnival is the oldest running carnival in the country.
Westling appreciated her sponsor, Mike Maranda of Quality Insurance Service. “He never gave up on me, sponsoring me for all three candidacies,” she said. “I wasn’t planning on running a third time, but he convinced me to try one more time. He and his wife have provided unending support and encouragement. They are truly two of the best people I know.”
The St. Paul Winter Carnival would not be possible without the hundreds of volunteers who make it happen every year. Westling encourages interested individuals to volunteer their time, money, and energy to join this group of individuals.
There is a place for everyone in the Winter Carnival regardless of age, race, economic status, gender, or sexual identification/orientation.
“The 2018 Royal Family has already become a true family,” Westling reported. “We are having a fabulous time, and I cannot wait to see what this year brings!”