Sixteen-day Winter Carnival sees low initial engagement, adapted programming

by Manasi Singh | 2/16/21 2:05am

f60ef280-cbb8-4c5a-bd2e-05aa9d13ae1c-original-1
One of three Winter Carnival snow sculptures, a Pokémon Snorlax waves at campus from the Green.
by Divya Kopalle / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

As Dartmouth’s Winter Carnival celebration enters its third and final week, students can attend an interactive event showcasing alumni in the gaming industry or head to the Bema to see a light and sound show, among other programming opportunities. Despite seeing initially low engagement, the extended 16-day, video game-inspired carnival has brought many students online or outside to celebrate.

After a slow week one, the second week of Winter Carnival activities saw increased participation. All in-person events well-attended, according to Winter Carnival council chair Colton Wagner ’21, and the ice sculpture carving competitions, dog sled duo races and snowshoe races filled to capacity. Collis Center and Collis After Dark facilitated the events, which also included craft nights and axe throwing with the Dartmouth Outing Club’s Timber Team.

Emma Rafkin ’21, whose team won the People’s Choice Award for the second week’s ice sculpture contest, said her team entered the contest out of “senior year nostalgia” and with no background experience in ice sculpting.

“This event caught my eye because it’s something that you can’t do when you’re outside of Dartmouth,” Rafkin said. “They definitely made it easy to participate if you wanted to.”

Rafkin added that while COVID-19 restrictions limited the number of people involved with ice sculpting, she was happy to have been able to still enjoy the Dartmouth tradition.

This year’s carnival also included virtual opportunities, such as games on a Discord server and Twitch, as well as a “Pokémon Hunt” around Collis. Winter Carnival council member Alex Yusen ’21 said that one goal for the group was to make it possible for students on campus and at home to participate in events together.

“We’ve put [the events] together with special thought,” Yusen said. “… It's been really great to see that we do have people from both on and off campus interacting and working on these things together.” 

Collis also featured a few gaming consoles located in the TV lounges, available for use by any student.

This year’s Winter Carnival was extended to 16 days in order to adjust for limited event capacities and offer more opportunities for students to get involved. Running multiple, smaller events over many days allows the highest number of students to participate, while still abiding by the College’s 25-person limit on College-sponsored activities.

Wagner and Yusen noted that amid Winter Carnival’s low initial participation, some students questioned whether the event was happening at all this year. 

“I think a lot of people get engaged with the Winter Carnival by just walking around and seeing what's going on and through word of mouth,” Wagner said. 

Engage has been the main way for the Winter Carnival council to promote this year’s events, Wagner said. The council has been actively updating opportunities and the number of remaining open slots as part of its effort to make the in-person events as accessible as possible.

Many events have also been adapted to maintain school traditions. The annual snow sculpture project, which has been underway for the past week, has been divided into three separate snow sculptures on the Green. 

Ethan Goldman ’22, who has been heavily involved building the snow sculptures, said the process has been different than past years, but he has still enjoyed it.

“There's just fewer people here to [participate], but it's still been really enjoyable,” Goldman said.

However, from the outset, some typical Winter Carnival events weren’t able to run. The popular polar bear plunge at Occom Pond, which has been closed off this winter, was canceled. Wagner said with COVID-19 restrictions, it would have been impossible to integrate the event during this year’s activities, especially with the mask mandate.

In the final week of Winter Carnival, students have the opportunity to participate in ongoing online activities on Discord and Twitch, and Collis will continue to give out “arcade tickets” for participating in events, which can be redeemed for small prizes or entered into a raffle.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!