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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Students gear up for an ‘out of this world’ Winter Carnival

The Winter Carnival Committee collaborates with the Dartmouth Physics and Astronomy Society for this year’s carnival.

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This article is featured in the 2024 Winter Carnival special issue. 

The Winter Carnival Council and several other student organizations have spent nearly four months preparing for  Winter Carnival, running from Thursday, Feb. 8 to Sunday, Feb. 11. According to Winter Carnival Chair Sophia Abati ’27, the council of over 20 students decided that this year’s festivities will have a cosmic, space-themed twist, titling the event “Winterstellar: A Carnival in the Cosmos.”

“The chairs come up with ideas, and then go to the larger committee to vote on it and get a wider voice,” Abati said. “We had several brainstorming sessions and then voted on [the space theme]. It’s going to be all over the opening ceremony, Collis Common Ground [and] all the different activities.”

One of the most involved student organizations this year is Dartmouth’s Physics and Astronomy Society. The club will host events aligned with the space theme, including movie night screenings of “Hidden Figures” on Feb. 9 and “Interstellar” on Feb. 10 and tours of the Shattuck Observatory. The observatory has already been showcased as a precursor to Winter Carnival with a public observation session on Saturday, Jan. 27.

“[I’ve heard] that students don’t ever get exposure to [the observatory] and don’t ever go inside,” Physics and Astronomy Society and Winter Carnival Council member Luke Sveen ’27 said. “If you live in the [Fayerweathers] or near that area, you probably walk past it every day. But there’s very little engagement. We’re just hoping to open [access to the observatory] up and demystify that people can see some really interesting things in there.”

The council’s decision to incorporate a space theme has not only provided a fun twist to the festivities but has also brought the Shattuck Observatory to attention and provided a unique avenue to further Dartmouth’s liberal arts offerings and mission, according to Sveen. 

“Learning about astronomy or physics and in general, the sciences, is a huge part of a liberal arts education [because you are] getting exposed to a whole bunch of different things,” Sveen said. “There’s a lot of people here who never even try to touch that space. So I think that exposing people to that and giving people insight into why people like me think it’s so interesting is super valuable.”

The Winter Carnival committee has also facilitated the involvement of several other organizations and students to plan specific events. The Inter House Council will be organizing a broomball tournament, Phi Delta Alpha fraternity plans to hold their annual Chili Cook-Off, the Outdoor Programs Office will continue skate rentals and the Programming Board will host a “Wintersteller Edition” of  Monday Microbrews. 

Collis Center will be the main attraction for Winter Carnival-themed events, and Collis After Dark plans to align their laser tag and trivia programming with the space theme. The council will decorate the entirety of Collis with space-themed crafts, which will require many volunteers and may be the most difficult part of setting up the carnival, according to Abati.

“I’ve heard that it’s usually a time crunch to get Collis decorated in time,” Abati said. “A lot of the decorations we have to make, and we have a very short amount of time to set everything up because there’s always stuff going [on] in Collis Common Ground. ”

The open ceremony, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 8, will include the traditional exhibition from the Dartmouth Figure Skating Club, as well as new additions, including a space-themed Q&A with medicine professor and former astronaut Jay Buckey and another collaboration with the Shattuck Observatory. Other traditional events, such as the Polar Plunge, dog-sled races and ice sculpture contest will also have a space theme in terms of how they are advertised, according to Sveen.

“Everything surrounding [those traditional events] is going to be space-themed,” Sveen said. “The dog-sled race might be [named] something like the Rover Race, and the opening might be the ‘Galactic Gala’ or something like that. We haven’t quite settled on the names yet.”

Students are eagerly anticipating the Winter Carnival, including Peter Federici ’27, who believes that traditional events such as the Polar Plunge make the carnival “feel special.”

“[I am] super excited for the Winter Carnival [and] all the different traditions,” Federici said. “I feel like it is something that brings everyone together. I feel like we are really separated a lot because of our different classes, and this just synchronizes everyone for a few days.”

The Winter Carnival is a distinctive aspect of Dartmouth, contributing to the College’s unique history and culture, which is one of the “many reasons” why exchange student Sofia Dawoodbhoy ’25 chose Dartmouth as her study abroad destination.

“As an exchange student from London, the Winter Carnival is a great way for me to bond with other Dartmouth students and experience a different college lifestyle,” Dawoodbhoy said.

Returning students, especially seniors like Karina Montiel ’24, are looking forward to the Carnival because it allows them to get together and do “fun silly things” that don’t revolve around academics. Especially after their first year during the COVID-19 pandemic, these events have more significance in building community for seniors. 

“Coming out of COVID, [the Carnival] showed me not only the depth of what it means to be a student here, but also the post-Dartmouth experience,” Montiel said. “You can see people of all ages participating — there are kids running around playing in the snow, and there’s also the older generation of alums that come back and re-experience what it means to be a part of the Dartmouth community,” Montiel said.