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The Dartmouth
May 26, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Alumni remember Carnival as bigger than Green Key

Clemson Page '67, father of Lindsay Page '98, said if this year's Green Key Weekend is anything like it was in the past, "I hope she stays off the golf course."

Green Key Weekend has always been a chance for College students to cut loose and have fun after the long Hanover winter finally subsides.

Current students and recent alumni remember Green Key fondly, often more fondly than Winter Carnival or Homecoming.

Yet Green Key Weekend, for all its present glory, once stood in the shadow of Winter Carnival.

Old men winter

Green Key Weekend has always meant good times, good beer and good weather, but many alumni still remember Winter Carnival as the big weekend at the College.

Page said he remembers Green Key Weekend as a time of musical moments and romantic trysts, but one that is diluted in comparison to Carnival, the paramount weekend in terms of Dartmouth tradition.

Green Key "was lots of fun," an opportunity to "blow off some steam" and a time of year when students were "playing a little ball, going to a show," but could not compare to the hyped-up atmosphere of Winter Carnival, Isaac Heard '71 said.

"I don't think there is any question Winter Carnival was the big weekend," John Ransom '49 said.

Ransom said Winter Carnival's national fame in years past made the weekend a huge draw for Dartmouth students and visitors alike. It also guaranteed an influx of potential dates for Dartmouth men.

"Girls would just dream of getting invited to go to Winter Carnival," Ransom said. "You have to remember, we'd go weeks without a date. That made a weekend [with national pull] extremely big."

Page said Winter Carnival "was the premiere," because it was the weekend Dartmouth men "could sell to the women [at] the fancy colleges."

Heard said all his parents, peers and friends at other schools could talk about was Winter Carnival.

George Kohl '77 said the non-College community was relatively indifferent to Green Key Weekend.

Thomas Foley '62 said he and all his fraternity brothers would move out of their house during Winter Carnival so visiting women would have a place to stay.

There were no such arrangements during Green Key, he said.

"I don't remember Green Key," Foley said. "I guess it wasn't as big a deal."

Bill Pickard '71 said his involvement with the varsity crew team took him away during Green Key Weekend, but he does not recall missing much.

Winter Carnival, on the other hand, "was always a gas," Pickard said.

Carnival was fun primarily because there were so many activities and parties.

"We could walk out to the golf course and watch the ski jump, then return to town for parties that were all over the place," Pickard said.

Kohl said Winter Carnival offered "historical appeal ... real stuff. We still had the ski jump, the races, the ice sculptures -- [it was] a pleasant break in a cold winter."

There was "so much going on you could pick and choose -- canoe slides on the golf course, the ski jump," Heard said.

Carnival was raucous, with fraternity parties and a lot of drinking, Heard said, but Green Key was "lower key ... it was often useful to be elsewhere."

Jon Thompson '92 said even about five years ago, Green Key weekend was the "least well-known" of the four big weekends -- the other three being Winter Carnival, Homecoming and Summer Carnival.

Thompson said the student body was probably split 70 percent to 30 percent. "The majority thought, 'Hey it's kind of cool, but no biggie,'" he said.

George Lynch '87 said he does not have "vivid memories" of Green Key but does remember Winter Carnival.

After the College went coed in 1972, and the need to entice women to campus was no longer an issue, student preference began to shift from Winter Carnival to Green Key.

Stephen Haessler '76 said coeducation radically changed Green Key Weekend. The big weekends were "of a different nature" before coeducation at the College.

"The impact of women on the social orientation of school," especially during the big weekends, "was just enormous," he said.

Carnival was popular for Haessler and his classmates because "the buses came from Smith [College] and there were your dates."

There was no longer a need for the big weekends as "a lure or excuse for guys to bring women to campus," Kohl said.

Green Key Weekend, he said, now seemed like an anachronistic carry-over from "a time well before the College went coeducational ... some kind of illustrious, ancient tradition ... that [was now] like any other spring weekend."

"When I was a freshman it [Green Key] was a bigger thing," but because of the increasing number of females on campus "by the time I was a senior, there had been a big shift," Kohl said.

With many fewer females arriving on Green Key, Haessler said that weekend was a "good time to get out of Hanover, to Boston."

Spring in their step

Most alumni who have graduated in the last fifteen years, however, said the mellow nature of Green Key, which was unattractive to earlier alumni, now became the appeal.

John Malonis '86 said Winter Carnivals during his years at the College were all hype and throngs of noisy people, but not much else.

Winter Carnival "was so darn crowded, you couldn't get around to any fraternity," he said.

Green Key Weekend was "the best weekend of the year," because there were fewer non-Dartmouth people, and more camaraderie among the College students, Malonis said.

Melissa Lindberg '85 said Green Key "was more of a Dartmouth thing."

She said the invasion of the campus by non-Dartmouth students during Winter Carnival turned the weekend into a claustrophobic experience.

"Everybody had people coming to visit ... by my senior year I was leaving town on Winter Carnival," she said.

Lindberg characterized Green Key as "low-key" and "mellow" -- partially due to the lack of organized events.

Most recent alumni and current students point to nature for the rise in Green Key's popularity.

Malonis said it would get so "darn depressing in the winter ... the weather helped" transform Green Key into an important weekend.

Lindberg remembers Green Key as "sunshine ... it was spring," she said.

With "three feet of snow and freezing temperatures it's hard to go outside," Lindberg said, referring to Winter Carnival.

Ryan Noseck '97 said Green Key Weekend is more energetic and upbeat than Winter Carnival.

"It seems everyone is happy to be alive in spring," he said. "Everyone is pissed off in the winter."

Michael Ellenberg '97 said Carnival has lost what made it a big event in the past. He added that Green Key Weekend has a bad name, but a distinct personality as a big weekend at the College.

"The name is dull," he said. But "it has some genuine events ... wacky activities" and a carnival atmosphere the "mega-Dartmouth weekends" -- Homecoming and Winter Carnival -- lack.