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Winter at Dartmouth:The History of Winter Carnival

Feb 05, 2013 02:11AM ● By Victoria Pipas

Winter at Dartmouth:The History of Winter Carnival

Dartmouth’s Annual Winter Carnival is a college, community, and regional event not to be missed! Spanning four days (this year from Thursday, February 7 to Sunday, February 10), its many festivities are artfully planned to feature well-loved Dartmouth traditions and new events alike.

The event began in 1910, when the Dartmouth Outing Club established a field day during the winter to celebrate snow sports, especially skiing. The next year, the event was expanded to include dances and other social events, and it eventually came to be called Winter Carnival. Word got around, and soon students from across the nation flocked to the Northeast for this highlight event of the season. Winter Carnival at Dartmouth College was the place to be in February.

Winter Carnival also made its mark in Hollywood. In 1939, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Budd Schulberg were hired to write a screenplay for the motion picture Winter Carnival. The film stars an ex-Winter Carnival Queen of the Snows, played by Ann Sheridan, who marries for money and then returns to Hanover from Europe to warn her sister not to do the same. One of many traditions, the film is screened annually at the Carnival so that current Dartmouth students may enjoy their college’s history in the spotlight.

Throughout the weekend, numerous activities are planned by the Collis Center for Student Involvement, the Dartmouth College social committee. This year, the festivities kick off on Thursday with cross-country skiing and the Winter Carnival Opening Ceremonies, followed by a Carnival tea. Brave souls are invited to “enjoy” a Polar Bear Swim on Friday morning, and the Carnival Ball takes place Friday evening. Saturday’s events include a Human Dogsled race in the early afternoon, and then arts and crafts for the entire family. For a full schedule of the weekend’s events, visit

Theming the Carnival started in 1962 and continues to this day. In its 102nd year (2013), the Winter Carnival’s theme is “A Very Grimm Carnival.” Themes from past years have included “A Midwinter Night’s Dream,” “The Winterful World of Disney,” “The Rise and Fall of the Frozen Empire,” and “The Roaring −20°s.” For many, the highlight of each year’s festivities is the giant snow sculpture that is carved by Dartmouth students in the middle of the Green. A Lincoln Memorial, a pirate ship, Dr. Seuss, a giant cupcake, and Mt. Moosilauke are a few of the many sculptures that have graced the Green in winter. Building these sculptures is a monstrous feat, and the skill of Dartmouth students is internationally recognized. The 1987 snow sculpture, a giant, saxophone-playing snowman for that year’s “Blizzard on Bourbon Street” theme, took the Guinness World Record for “tallest snowman” at a towering forty-seven and a half feet. Good old Frosty would be shivering in his boots beneath that snowman’s shadow!

Bring your family, friends, and relatives to campus this February, and be a part of Winter Carnival history! What is your favorite memory of Winter Carnival?

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