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MANKATO — SnowKato Days organizers are hoping lots of fluffy white flakes fall during the new festival that begins Jan. 17.

Blizzards (of one variety) definitely can be expected during the winter celebration.

Confections that share names with a severe type of storm — and the new festival — will be served at the Dairy Queen on Adams Street, starting Saturday.

Owner Tim Stevens and his staff want the public to decide which of the store’s three new ice cream concoctions merits the title “SnowKato Days Blizzard.”

“We are inviting people to come in 1-2:30 p.m. Saturday to sample the new flavors,” Stevens said.

After days of trying out several inventions, Stevens and his crew have narrowed their special treat samples down to a minty mixture, a cocoa fudge combination and a cookie-cake crumb creation. The winning flavor will be served Saturday through the festival’s last day, Jan. 26.

Stevens’ store is one of the locations where SnowKato Days buttons may be purchased. Button buyers may take advantage of special store discounts during the festival and they have a chance to win prizes in an online contest.

Visit Mankato, the local convention and visitor’s bureau, is billing SnowKato Days as a boost for local businesses as well as a showcase of winter activities to enjoy locally.

“Early in 2019, we pulled together a task force to define what a winter festival in Mankato could be,” Visit Mankato President Anna Thill said.

Her organization, the business unit of Greater Mankato Growth, had looked at typical hotel occupancy numbers for mid-January and and local sales.

“It’s a slower time of year,” Thill said, adding that winter festival activities should draw shoppers to town.

More than 60 businesses are participating in SnowKato Days, Thill said.

The Free Press is sponsoring a medallion hunt with a $500 prize.

Kids activities during the festival include a coloring contest, sponsored by Pizza Ranch, and scavenger hunts at Blue Earth County Historical Society. The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota has outdoor activities planned near its building.

Pub 500 is sponsoring a pet-friendly event 5-7 p.m. Jan. 23 in conjunction with SnowKato. The establishment also will be honoring the 100th anniversary of the 1920 Mankato Winter Festival.

“It’s a beautiful synergy,” Thill said, describing the coincidence of the dates of this year’s inaugural event and the centennial of an earlier festival in Mankato.

The 1920 winter celebration included the coronation of a queen and a grand parade.

“We’re not having a royal court or a parade. This is our first year and that would be a little too much to manage.”

Downtown events include an outdoor party near the civic center, Snow Dazzle on the Plaza; laser light shows and ice sculpture demonstrations by the Sakatah Carvers — artists whose works are regular displays at Kiwanis Holiday Lights.

Thill said the festival dates were scheduled to be bookended with weekends.

SnowKato events likely will add to the sure-bet excitement of watching MSU Maverick hockey home games slated during the festival (Jan. 24 and 25).

The festival will offer several events for outdoor enthusiasts; however its Jack Frost Frolic at Sibley Park has been postponed indefinitely.

Curling lessons will be offered at Mankato Curling Club; Nicollet Bike and Ski plans a “fat bike” trail ride to a local brewery; VINE will sponsor a snowshoeing activity at Rasmussen Woods; and Mount Kato will host skiing classes and a tubing event.

“Mount Kato’s sure to have plenty of snow,” Thill said.

A full list of SnowKato Days activities is at:

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