University of St. Thomas senior and electrical engineering major Ashleigh Hayes kicked off spring semester with a royal bang. On Friday, Jan. 27, she was crowned Aurora, Queen of the Snows, at the 126th St. Paul Winter Carnival.

“The night of coronation I only got 45 minutes of sleep as we began planning for the following nine days of carnival ahead of us. The next morning began with a TV appearance and then several visits to nursing homes, schools and businesses. We also went to several Winter Carnival events around downtown St. Paul,” she said.

All of that was done during just the first weekend of her reign.

Hayes, with also newly crowned King Boreas, Steve Cortinas of Eagan, will preside over the Winter Carnival, making appearances until it wraps up on Feb. 5. The pair also will represent the Winter Carnival at events throughout the year with the other members of the carnival royalty – four princes and four princesses.

A lifelong St. Paul native, Hayes told the Pioneer Press how she approaches her new role: “… the goal is not to wear a crown; the goal is to be active in my community.”

Hayes waves from the royal float during the Grande Day Parade in St. Paul on Jan. 28. Photo courtesy of St. Paul Winter Carnival.

As Queen of the Snows she will have an opportunity to do just that: “Our motto this year is ‘family, honor, respect.’ These three words embody how I plan to approach my role. As a team my new royal family will strive to honor the Winter Carnival and city of St. Paul and will respect the tradition of the festival. Our message is community service and its importance.”

The PP article also cited Hayes’ love for math and science, which began at STEPS (Science, Technology and Engineering Preview Summer camp for girls), which she attended in sixth grade. The camp still thrives today and continues to be co-sponsored by St. Thomas’ School of Engineering and held on the university’s St. Paul campus.

Hayes noted, “STEPS camp illustrated to me how math could be applied and used. I always knew I wanted to do something that would help people, and after my experience at STEPS, I realized how engineering fit in with my goal to help people. Attending STEPS made me want to come back to St. Thomas as a prospective student. It was one of eight schools I visited during my college search.”

Hayes was among 13 candidates who vied for the crown and was selected by a panel of five judges.

Candidates were evaluated based on their public speaking aptitude, ability to work in a team setting, poise and commitment to serving as a representative for the city of St. Paul and the St. Paul Winter Carnival.

Last year’s Queen of the Snows, 2008 St. Thomas graduate Madalyn Dosch, crowned Hayes at the Jan. 27 ceremony.

A lifelong celebrator of the Winter Carnival, Hayes said, “I love the idea of uniting Minnesotans as we embrace our winter weather and partake in several wonderful winter activities. The Winter Carnival truly shows the strong community of St. Paul.”