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A City of Lakes Loppet playlist

'Once you get moving, you're good,' says Carla Pardue of the City of Lakes Loppet.
'Once you get moving, you're good,' says Carla Pardue of the City of Lakes Loppet.via City of Lakes Loppet on Facebook

by Youa Vang

January 28, 2022

When the wind is biting and spring is a distant dream, the City of Lakes Loppet (pronounced Lope-it) Winter Festival breaks the monotony of monochrome days. This year’s event takes place from Feb. 4-6.

The festival began when one of the founders, R.T. Rybak, and some friends skied the Birkebeiner race in Northern Wisconsin and sought to bring something similar in their own backyard. They decided to set up their own course and invited anyone that wanted to be a part of the race to join in. Rybak - along with the Loppet Adventures director Ray Aponte and Luminary Loppet coordinator Carla Pardue - shared songs that help summon the winter spirits.

The mission of the Loppet is to share outdoor activities with young underserved athletes – approximately 8,000 per year – who may not have ready access. While the title Adventures Director may seem broad, Ray Aponte’s role is to make the biggest impact he can in these young lives, because he believes that nature changes perspective. On the trails, the goal is to build resiliency and grit they can use later on in life. On ski outings, he ensures they have the proper gear and clothing to brave the cold. Aponte asked the kids he mentors for songs that helped motivate them when on the trails.

For Pardue, the Winter Festival is a chance to share local music with families that may not have a chance to see artists outside of a bar setting. When booking artists, Pardue draws from her experience working in the music community, which began when she was bartending at Williams Uptown Pub, and is emphatic that anyone that plays the festival be local.

Pardue advises attendees to come to the winter festival prepared with proper gear. “Put on a large Minnesota coat and also have a hat and scarf,” she says. “You won’t even feel the cold as walk through these wonderful ice features, because once you get moving, you're good. Plus, there are fire pits all over the lake. You can stop and warm up. You’ll see the party on the lake, and you’ll hear the music. Then, you look over your shoulder, and there's the Minneapolis skyline, you think, ‘Wow I'm in the middle of the city.’ There are these little nuggets of treasure that are hiding right in our backyard.”

After taking a year break due to the pandemic, the Winter Festival returns this year to allow Minneapolis to show off its crowning glory as Minnesotans gather to celebrate the season. Rybak says, “If you want to be in rhythm with nature, be out there in all of the seasons. I grew up with a parent from California, but I’ve learned to love the winter. I can’t seem to keep a job, but there's really only been one constant in my career, and it's Minneapolis and Minnesota. It’s always been about this place. I just want the stability of knowing I'm somewhere that I love with the excitement of trying things that are new. I couldn’t have imagined the Loppet growing to what it is today, and I couldn’t have done it by myself. John Munger was a big part of this project.”

Like a snowman that grows the more you pack on, the Loppet has expanded to include volunteers, a bike trail, live music, and ice sculptures. It’s also – as Rybak puts it – a big middle finger to the people who can’t find the magic in Minnesota winters. Because who wouldn’t want to be out on the middle of a frozen lake with luminaries and bonfires where you can roast your own Twinkies on a frozen lake while sharing joy with a bunch of other Minnesotans?

This playlist incorporates song selections from all three Loppet luminaries. Aponte and Pardue let their song selections speak for themselves, while Rybak shared some thoughts on the tracks he picked.

I started out with Prince's “Uptown,” because the Loppet race starts in Uptown, and that's the warm up song as you're getting ready to kick off right. I put the Talking Heads “Road to Nowhere,” because it’s got that that great sort of marching rhythm in there. There are lots of people in the race with you, and you're kind of unsure where you're going. And then you get into a rhythm, and you're skating across the lakes. I hate this song, but I think it's perfect for it – [Vanilla Ice’s] “Ice Ice Baby,” because as you're coming around the third lane coming into Cedar [Lake], you need lots of energy so there I included “Music for Boys” from the Suburbs. Then finally the last one on the lake was Low’s “Just Like Christmas.”

So now you’ve skied out from Uptown across the chain of lakes, into Theodore Wirth and Brownie Lake, and you're literally crossing over the top of the freeway. You look to your right and you see the [Minneapolis] skyline. Okay, when you get to that point, I've got “Midnight on the Interstate” by Trampled by Turtles. The first line is “Late night/Midnight on the interstate/And I didn't feel so great/Until I saw the city.” You see the freeway and you see the city right there, and that's just a really beautiful song that leads into another beautiful song: “Velodrome” by Dessa. You’re coming down into the most beautiful part of the course, which is going through the Quaking Bog and it's just really, really a beautiful, beautiful part in the course. You're sort of more contemplative in the woods on that.

Now I'm tempted at this point to do that Billy Joel song about a heart attack, because the next part of the course is where I literally did have a heart attack. I had a heart attack near the Wildflower Garden, so I was gonna put that heart attack song, I'm but I chose not to. Instead, you're usually running out of energy, so I put Lizzo’s “Juice” there. 

Then what happens is now you're coming out of the woods. There's a minute on the Wizard of Oz soundtrack called “Optimistic Voices” with the little munchkins singing, “You're out of the woods/You're out of the dark/You're out of the night.”

Now you begin to descend toward the finish line, so I put “Such Great Heights” by the New Standards. “They will see us waving from such great heights/Come down now, they'll say.” Then, right at the end…finally, you're really cold and you're worried about what your time is going to be, so I think you also want a little randomness, so I finished up with the song “Cool” by the Time.

Playlist selections: R.T. Rybak

Prince, “Uptown”
Talking Heads, “Road to Nowhere”
Vanilla Ice, “Ice Ice Baby”
The Suburbs, “Music for Boys”
Low, “Just Like Christmas”
Trampled by Turtles, “Midnight on the Interstate”
Dessa, “Velodrome”
Lizzo, “Juice”
Wizard of Oz Munchkins, “Optimistic Voices”
The New Standards, “Such Great Heights”
The Time, “Cool”

Playlist selections: Ray Aponte

Atmosphere, “Say Shh”
Ricki Monique ft. yourbeautifulruin, “Immortal”
Blu Bone, “Blu Vegeta”

Playlist selections: Carla Pardue

Kygo ft. Whitney Houston, “Higher Love”
The Okee Dokee Brothers, “Candles”
Dan Israel, “The Hang of It”
jeremy messersmith, “We All Do Better When We All Do Better”

Silhouettes of skater in front of snow globe featuring skyline.
Every now and then, winter wind takes mercy on us, creating a gentle arena for snowflakes to fall as we enjoy moving on the ice.
Marlena Myles for The Current.

This feature is part of The Current’s 89 Days of Winter series, helping you enjoy the best of the season with weekly guides to events, entertainment, and recreation in the Twin Cities.

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.