The royal court for the 60th Whitefish Winter Carnival is growing, with the Saturday evening crowning of the next King Ullr, Paul Coats, and Queen of the Snows Patricia Ryan.
Ryan and Coats, who are married to one another, were both children of career military fathers. Coats was born in Alabama, started school in Guatemala, graduated high school in Germany, traveled all over and came to Whitefish 33 years ago. Ryan was born in Salzburg, Austria. She lived on the same German Army base where Coats later graduated from high school. Ryan has lived in 10 U.S. states and has spent time in Nepal, India, and Central America. She settled in Montana 25 years ago. After seeing enough of the world, they both know that the realm of Whitefish is definitely home.
Ryan graduated from Castleton State College in Vermont with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice and sociology. She served in the AmeriCorps VISTA Program. She has a Master in Social Work degree from the University of Utah, with post-graduate specialties in Gestalt therapy, families and couples from the Gestalt Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. Ryan has worked in a variety of mental-health settings, including community mental-health programs, Two Eagle River School on the Flathead Reservation, day-treatment centers, and in private practice. She also taught counseling classes at Northern Michigan University.
Ryan is semi-retired and doing counseling/consulting work and facilitating groups for Northwest Family Recovery. She is a licensed massage therapist and has served on the state Board of Massage Therapy for six years.
Outside her professional work, she has served on the Glacier Hockey Association Board, and has been a manager for several hockey and soccer teams. She has helped coordinate Winter Carnival events over the years, including the Yeti Snow Skate Jam, snow-sculpture events, button sales, and is a current member of the Winter Carnival board of directors. Ryan volunteers at the Stumptown Historical Museum. She is an avid hiker, skier, dancer, drummer, gardener and mom.
Coats is a registered nurse and nurse practitioner. When he first came to Whitefish in 1986, he worked at the old North Valley Hospital. After that he went on to serve in a wide variety of settings and roles around Northwest Montana family planning, well child clinics, worksite wellness, tribal health for the Salish and Kootenai Tribes, emergency room coverage in Libby and more. He has helped to create many programs over the years, including worksite self-help health programs, case management for injured workers, high-risk teen pregnancy support, and the Save the Brain youth concussion program. Beyond that he has worked on inventions and innovations ranging from coffee-grinder silencers to video-based electronic medical records. Paul was voted Montana Nurse Practitioner of the Year twice. He has loved being part of the Department of Neurology at Kalispell Regional for the past many years and will likely keep doing that until he retires.
Coats was immediately captivated by the mythology and merriment of Winter Carnival and joined in the activities in 1988. He went from chairing the snow sculpture committee to carnival president in 1994. With his son Bjorn, Patricia, and loads of kids, he helped coordinate the Yeti Snow Skate Jam for several years. He was honored with the High Ullr award in 2007.
Paul and Patricia have three children: Bjorn, Ilsa and Stellan, all Whitefish High School graduates.
After years of thinking about how special it is that Whitefish has its own local mythology, last year the newly crowned King and Queen released the childrens book, Ullr and The Yeti, which tells the bigger story behind the carnival legend. Now, they have the chance to bring the 60 year-old legend to life in a Woodstock Whitefish kind of way.