Beyond the crown: St. Paul Carnival South Wind Princess serves her community and country 

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Serving her community is nothing new to Madalyn McGarry. After she was crowned the newest South Wind Princess at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival on Jan. 26, 2024, she knew she was prepared to serve the broader Saint Paul community, just as she has served the state of Minnesota since enlisting into the Minnesota National Guard in March of 2020. 

The South Wind Princess is one of several volunteers who are crowned each year as a member of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival’s “royal family” and serves in the city and the surrounding community. The goal of those who are crowned, McGarry said, is to spread the love and magic for the “Legend” within the community by being present within it. 

“We attend a variety of events throughout our year including parades, coronations, volunteering events, and other community visits,” she said. “We all work together to offer a sense of welcomeness and happiness to people within the community.” 

Being crowned was an unexpected but pleasant surprise, McGarry said. 

“Getting crowned was such an amazing and surreal experience,” she said. “I loved candidacy, and it was sad when it came to an end. Coronation day was such a whirlwind, and nothing felt real all day. When they called my name as South Wind Princess my jaw dropped. I could not believe that I was picked. I had a lot of friends and family in the audience, and I could hear all of them cheering me on. This made everything so incredibly special for me.” 

This is not McGarry’s first time being crowned. In Jordan, Minnesota, she participated in the Jordan Ambassadors program and was crowned a Princess in 2020-2021, and Miss Congeniality in 2021-2022. Growing up and attending the city’s festival, Heimatfest, she knew from an early age that she wanted to run for Miss Jordan. 

“My older sister ran when I was eight years old, and I remember telling my mom at her coronation that I was going to do that one day,” she said. “I loved getting to be so involved in my community and it brought me so many amazing opportunities.” 

McGarry originally enlisted into the Minnesota National Guard as a food service specialist, but eventually decided to enter the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, program at the University of Minnesota where she is on track to graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in sociology of law, criminology and justice with a subplan in health care and careers, as well as a minor in Spanish. 

Although her decision to enlist was impulsive, McGarry said, it was the right decision for her. 

“There was not a lot of thought behind it,” she said. “The world had just shut down because of COVID and I was unsure what I was going to do with my life. Enlisting seemed like a step in the right direction. It has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.” 

Currently, McGarry is stationed at Camp Ripley with C Company, 1347th Division Sustainment Support Battalion. When she graduates in May she will commission as an armor officer. She is hoping to attend a graduate school to work towards a master’s in forensic psychology. Her ultimate goal, McGarry said, is to attend law school and someday work as a professor of law. 

Being a Soldier and a princess has more in common than one might think, McGarry said. 

“I am constantly finding principles that connect the two, and I think that being a Soldier has helped me be a better princess and vice versa,” she said. “My sense of confidence and leadership skills have grown immensely in both worlds, and I think that it wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t have both experiences. There is so much dedication and passion that goes into both aspects of my life. I am extremely proud of both sides of these, and I love getting to talk about it with others. My battle buddies will bow and call me ‘Your Highness’ and my Royal Family jokes that I could beat up our guards.” 

Her favorite part of serving in the military is similar to her favorite part of serving as a princess, she said. 

“I love all of the connections that I have made with people,” she said. “I have met some of my best friends within the service, and I am so thankful for all of the people that I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with.” 

By Sgt. 1st Class Sirrina Martinez 
Minnesota National Guard