Friday, August 27, 2010

Princess Kay of the Milky Way

Yesterday I was at the Minnesota State Fair on an assignment for The Catholic Spirit. I know! I love my job.

The 57th Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Katie Miron, is an active member of St. John the Baptist parish in Hugo, so I set out to get a photo while her likeness was carved in butter, a tradition at the fair.

I found her sitting in a 40-degree rotating glass booth near the back of the Dairy Building, where she was bundled in a winter coat and snow pants while butter sculptor Linda Christensen worked on her masterpiece.

Christensen has been carving butter statues of the princesses for the past 39 years. She has done more than 500 of them. The sculptures take 6 to 8 hours to complete, and she will do the 11 finalists, too, completing one each day of the fair.

When the fair is over, Miron and the other finalists will take their sculptures home.

But what do you do with a butter head?

During a short question-and-answer session with spectators in the afternoon, Miron said she will keep it until her reign as Princess Kay is over next year and then she will use it for cooking and baking. Past princesses have used them for cooking, kept them in the freezer and donated them to Catholic schools. One is even on display at the Minnesota History Center, according to a story today in the Wall Street Journal.

Monday, August 23, 2010

An Ecuadorian celebration

While on assignment for The Catholic Spirit Sunday, Aug.15, I got to experience a traditional Ecuadorian celebration. The Ecuadorian community at Sagrado Corazón de Jesús parish in Minneapolis took part in the traditional celebration in honor of La Virgen del Cisne, or the Virgin of the Swan.

The celebration  began with Mass and the changing of the "Manto," the robe of the statue of La Virgen del Cisne. Then a procession.

The celebration continued with musical groups, dancing and Ecuadorian food at the parish.

On Saturday, Aug. 14, Sagrado Corazón hosted a celebration with Ecuadorian games and family activities in a park near the church. 
Devotion to La Virgen del Cisne began more than four centuries  ago and is celebrated on August 15 every year in El Cisne, a small town in Ecuador's Southern Andes. The celebration there begins with a 74 kilometer procession to Loja, another city in Ecuador. Thankfully, the celebration in Minneapolis included a much shorter trek, three blocks around the neighborhood of the church.

The story of  La Virgen del Cisne says that the indigenous people of El Cisne commissioned a statue of the Virgin Mary in 1594. Shortly after it was finished, there was a severe drought and the people were evacuated and they took the statue with them.

Then a strong storm hit that destroyed homes and uprooted trees. The people thought it was a curse for taking the staue away from where it belonged. So they returned to their homes and in the end realized that it was not a curse and that the statue could be moved. Hence the annual procession.

They built a shrine that same year and the current shrine, erected in 1934, is under the care of the Oblate Mission Fathers.

More information about the Ecuadoran celebration and its history is available here.