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Winter Carnival: A Blizzard of Unbelievable Beasts

Jan 30, 2020 08:18PM ● By Gabrielle Varela

Photo Provided By Dartmouth College

What started out as a weekend of sporting events almost a hundred years ago, Dartmouth’s Winter Carnival 2020 has grown into a three day festival of student-run events. Each year, students of the Dartmouth Winter Carnival Council in partnership with Collis Center for Student Involvement begin planning the theme that will drive the weekend. 

As Dartmouth’s 110th Winter Carnival fast approaches, Juan Miche Rosales, a member of Dartmouth’s class ‘20 and David Pack, Associate Director of Student Involvement give us their insider info on what they are most excited about and how the event has evolved over the years.

Juan, who signed on to the Council his sophomore year for the year of the Snow Wars after falling in love with the event his freshman year. He has been involved in the Polar Bear swim leading the event and also acting as the event photographer. After missing the event his junior year due to a year abroad, he is excited to return to the Council and event for his senior year, A Blizzard of Unbelievable Beasts.

“The event is an opportunity for students to show their creativity and over the years it’s gotten more crypted. Movies like Abominable came out, Small Foot, Missing Link, and more of these sorts of folklore-based themes were surfacing in movies and culture. It’s something that is involved in everyone’s culture in one fashion or another. Everyone’s culture has this sort of mystical beast of some sort. In Hawaii with the Menehune or the Nightmarchers, or in Scotland with Nessie and in Mexico with Chupacabra. Everyone can sort of related to this in some way no matter your culture.” Said Rosales.

The weekend’s theme is chosen by the whole committee. “The whole committee brainstorms like what are the things that bring appeal and that people can connect with? It might be a parody of some pop culture reference like Snow Wars and College of Ice Crafted Blizzardry, but this year they wanted to move away from pop culture connections and move toward ideas that had broad cultural roots and had the most creative breadth and leniency.” Said Pack.

The long-standing tradition of Winter Carnival is one of the most anticipated events of the year. The theme is then worked into three days of events beginning with an Opening Ceremony with a massive snow sculpture to kick off the weekend along with performances by the College’s acapella groups Rockapellas and Sings. Chris Cartwright ‘21 got involved with the Council as a first-year and has taken the lead on the snow sculptures this year working on a sea monster design for this year’s theme A Blizzard of Unbelievable Beasts.

The event is almost completely student-run and hosted with the help of Hanover Police Department, the Dartmouth groundskeepers and the College. The celebration includes other fantastical events like an ice sculpture contest with sculptures carved by students, a Polar Bear Swim, Baker Tower Tours, Human Dog Sled Racing, and Trivia.

“I think that’s why people love it so much. It brings students together and allows us to interact with one another.” Said Rosales. “It brings joy to the hearts of students in this dreadful time of winter when it’s really cold out!”

In Rosales time at Dartmouth, he says he has seen more student involvement and interaction.

“A lot of people love the posters. My friends and a lot of my counsel members collect the posters because they really want to have the complete collection for their time at Dartmouth. Other people love getting involved with the ice sculptures. They get involved simply because they’ve never done  it before. The Polar Bear swim is one everyone loves which is crazy to think anyone wants to jump into a cut out of the pond in the middle of winter!” Said Rosales, though he reports 500 people participated in the Polar Bear swim for the past two years.

“There are ways Carnival has evolved over the years but at its core, it remains a student celebration or, sort of, embrace of our unique location in New England. Instead of just surviving the winter it’s about embracing it. So, I think there are pieces of it that have come and gone over the years and people at Dartmouth talk a lot about traditions. There are pieces of those traditions that have come and gone like, we don’t really crown a Carnival Queen anymore... But the through-line is that the Carnival Council comes together and sort of decides how they want to engage the theme and celebrate Carnival and plan these events for the rest of campus.” Said Pack.

For the weekend, campus will bedecked in whimsical, blizzardy, mysterious creatures and students will be served up mystical concoctions. Skinny Pancake has met the task with past menus that include Jabba the Hummus and Obi Wan Cannolis for Snow Wars year. They have been asked to design a magical menu again with delicacies such as Nessie’s Noodles, Adaro’s Delight and Dragon Scales.

Pack comments that the ice sculpture began during his time here and has been a successful addition to the weekend and that the Collis Center for Student Involvement and The Winter Carnival Council continues to brainstorm more opportunities all things considered:

“I think people are increasingly looking for ways they can connect to Carnival. People’s schedules have changed. What the college experience now compared to what it looked like 50 or 60 years ago might be slightly different and so the event needs to evolve as well. It needs to match student needs and student time commitment and things like that.” Said Pack.

New additions to the weekend long festivities are a storytelling event named S’more Lore. Small fire pits are to be set near the snow dome with benches where people can sit and share stories of the folklore of their culture, perhaps even their or their families’ own experiences with mysterious mythical creatures. Another new addition is the Big Foot Races, a continuation of the snowshoe race from previous years. Cabin and Trail, one of the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) Associations is going to be helping with those.

“I think one of the things that has definitely changed over the years is the weather is less reliable than it used to be.” Something they learn to adapt to as time goes on. This is also an advantage to the snow dome addition on the Green. Council is looking to implement more activities like the ice sculptures that do not depend entirely on the weather. “So, think SNOW!” Joked Pack.

Though the celebration is a student program, Dartmouth invites the community to come watch the events. The weekend begins Thursday evening February 6th.

Click here for more information.

Photo Gallery Photo Credit:

2019 Dartmouth Winter Carnival human dogsled races. Photos by Dartmouth College / Xiaoran (Seamore) Zhu.

2019 Dartmouth Winter Carnival photos of WingDing acappella performance hosted by Sing Dynasty, polar bear plunge and ice sculpture carving contest.  Photos by Dartmouth College/ Robert Gill.

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