By Jennifer Gallus
HOWARD LAKE, MN - “I’m going to bring them 1880s cowboy,” said Jeff Amland of Howard Lake who has been chosen as Prince of the West Wind for the St. Paul Winter Carnival, which begins this week. Check out Amland's video invitation to the Winter Carnival.
Amland explained that West Wind representatives, as of late, have been mostly “modern cowboys,” while he will draw from his vast collection of late 1880s traditional apparel and gear.
Each year, new representatives are chosen to comprise the royal family of King Boreas, but those people must have some kind of significant tie to St. Paul.
Amland, aka “Renegade,” grew up in Cottage Grove, which is a suburb of St. Paul, and was actually called a village when he was young. Additionally, his late father grew up in St. Paul.
Amland’s wife, Tammy, is from Mounds Park, which is on the east side of St. Paul.
The royal legend of the carnival includes King Boreas assigning his brothers control of each of the four winds. More of the legend can be found at www.winter-carnival.com.
The West Wind has to dress the part of a cowboy, but Amland doesn’t just dress the part, he lives the part every day. He’s an actor for Cowboy Honor, he owns a gun blanks ammunition company, and he’s active with the Old West Society of Minnesota.
Cowboy Honor is a professional re-enactment company based in Howard Lake and led by the Amlands.
The group travels across the country and performs various historical events such as the Wells Fargo strongbox robbery, Lincoln County New Mexican War, Johnson County Wyoming War, gunfights at the OK Corral, post-Civil War robberies by the James/Younger Gang, and more.
The focus is on the turbulent history between the years of 1866 through 1899.
“We are real cowboys and true horsemen,” Amland said. “We bring to events the cowboy skills of horsemanship, the lariat, the bullwhip, the Winchester, and the Colt. We are historians and educators.”
Because of Amland’s passion for the past, and his use of genuine late 1880s pistols, rifles, and shotguns, he started his gun blanks ammunition business about four years ago.
One of his first local customers was Roger Kruze, who at that time, was the current West Wind representative for the winter carnival.
Kruze ordered ammunition for the pistol he was using to play his winter carnival part. Each year since, the West Wind representatives have bought their blank ammunition from Amland.
Amland had given Kruze the Cowboy Honor web site so that Kruze could put a face to who he was dealing with, and see what the group was all about. That web site is www.cowboyhonor.com.
Kruze and other winter carnival planners must have been impressed, because they then called Amland this past August to ask if he would like to be Prince of the West Wind for 2009.
“I said, ‘Wow, this is quite an invitation,’” Amland said. “My instant response was about my dad, and how I’d like to honor his name in St. Paul.”
“My dad died in 1980,” Amland continued, “and for me to have the Amland name involved in the St. Paul Winter Carnival to honor my father’s family name is a big opportunity you just can’t say ‘no’ to.”
Accepting the role means a one-year commitment that is all volunteer and includes traveling to different town parades and events throughout the year, not to mention almost daily meetings for a couple of weeks prior to the 10-day winter carnival, along with daily appearances during the festival.
If all goes as planned, and no big conflicts arise, Amland would like to bring the royal family to participate in the Good Neighbor Days parade, as well as Winsted’s Summer Festival.
“It’ll be a year of fun,” Amland said. “Past representatives I’ve spoken with have said it was the best year of their life.”
Amland already has a great memory of a pre-carnival event he took his 6-year-old granddaughter, Harlie, to, which was the Klondike Kate contest.
“She got to meet the princess, and all the candidates, and she met the 2008 royalty. She attached herself to two of the candidates it was a big night for a 6-year-old,” Amland said.
Harlie was given a camera that only had 10 pictures left on the film and was told to take her pictures wisely.
“She did great. She got a picture of the king, and of the queen, and the princess candidates. She had a blast. It was fun just watching her have fun,” Amland laughed.
The royal family will be traveling by bus during the carnival to visit schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.
“We’ll leave in the morning and travel all day, and come back for the festivities,” Amland said.
He’s going to try to schedule a surprise visit at the school district for which his mother works during that time period.
Not only does the royal family commit to a year of volunteerism, they also have to learn proper etiquette and protocol as if they were in the presence of the Queen of England.
“They really drive it into you that you are a royal member. We have been learning protocol and manners,” Amland said.
All of the learning has been taking place at special meetings before they are to officially start their reign.
“So I’ve been making a lot of trips to St. Paul already,” Amland laughed.
Although the winter carnival committee was very impressed at Amland’s apparel and genuine gear, they told him that his hats were a little too worn, and that he must wear a white hat so as to represent a “good” cowboy.
“So I went out and bought a new hat and have been getting it worn in,” Amland explained.
During an initiation dinner, he met all the past West Winds back to 1970, who all wore their previous West Wind attire, and none of them wore the traditional attire that Amland does.
Additionally, he will carry saddlebags during his reign and will hand out buttons for adults that have his name and picture on them, and will also hand out junior marshal badges for kids that also have his name and picture on them.
“I’ll wear all original cowboy pieces such as cuffs, spurs, chaps, bandanas, and carry a 1873 rifle. I’ll explain how all these items were used as tools for cowboys everything had a use everything,” Amland said.
He also wants to distinguish between what television has portrayed as “cowboy” versus reality.
“My part in all of this is to talk about Old West history, like what I do with the Old West Society of Minnesota,” he explained. “Minnesota was the Wild West at one point in history. The Jesse James gang had been in St. Paul drinking and playing poker before they robbed Northfield.”