In 1921, the Wellesley College Outing Club started a new tradition: the annual Winter Carnival. Over the following decades, the carnival included a wide range of events, from sledding to skiing competitions to ice skating. The carnival was actually a variant on an even older tradition: impromptu “ice festivals” dating back to 1901, offering such festivities as hot cocoa, bonfires and hurdy-gurdy music. Every Wellesley historian discussing the event makes note of how the fickle Massachusetts winter weather negatively affected its viability. As Arlene Cohen ’94 writes in her book Wellesley College, “Unpredictable weather made it difficult to establish Winter Carnival as an official annual event, but valiant and playful versions of it continued for many years.” In 1948 it was renamed Winter Carousel and gradually faded into obscurity as new events and traditions were created. In 1974 it was revived as the bizarrely named “Winter Whatchamacallit” and was not very successful compared to earlier iterations. It seemed that winter events were too weather-dependent to work.
This year, however, Winter Carnival was successfully revived on Feb. 8, with the help of a whole lot of collaboration. Residential Life, the Office of Student Involvement, Physical Education/Athletics, the Wellesley College Archives and Wellesley Fresh were just a few of the main collaborators for the event, which also featured a crocheting booth from Knit Happens and a performance from the Wellesley/MIT acapella group, The Toons.
“Almost all the people that turned up had never crocheted before, but I spent the whole event helping a couple people at a time work their way through producing a [crochet] heart,” said Maddy McLaughlin ’19 from Knit Happens.
According to Kady Shea from the Office of Residential Life, the idea to revive the event was sparked by a visit to the Wellesley Archives, where she and a few other students came across “Wellesley College 1875-1975: A Century of Women” by Jean Glasscock. The book features a brief history and description of the carnival.
“[Res staff members] had talked a little bit about it over the summer, and I had mentioned it to a couple more students that I work with over in Severance and Claflin, and they were really interested in bringing this tradition back,” said Shea. “I’m part of the Wellness Outreach Collaborative that happens on campus…and I brought this idea up at that meeting, and people got really into it, and were excited to learn more about it.
“I did some more digging, and worked with Abby Stevenson and Stephanie [Weiskopf] over in Student Development, and Monica Verity over in Athletics. We came together and got some students involved and brought it back,” she explained.
In addition to the crocheting and Toons performance, the carnival featured popcorn, “ice” skating on an artificial rink, an ice sculpture, an aromatherapy sachet making booth and a make your own hot cocoa bar with cocoa garnishes such as peppermint, white chocolate and dark chocolate. The event organizers had hoped to feature sledding and skiing as part of the carnival, but there was no snow on the ground at the time of the carnival. Instead, the weather was cold and windy. A few of the booths that were set up had issues with wind blowing around materials, and many students went into Collins to take shelter, hot cocoa in tow.
“The wind certainly exceeded expectations,” joked McLaughlin. “No, it went pretty well. It was a fun event and while I maybe should have set up inside somewhere to prevent frostbite, I’d be happy to participate again.”
“[In the future] we’d maybe want to collaborate more with the Davis Museum and Collins to have a little bit of warmth and indoor space for folks so that they’d had a little bit of reprieve from the cold weather,” said Shea.
But what did other students think of the carnival? Overall, it seemed to be a success, with a turnout of over four hundred. While many people noted the cold, most had something good to say.
“It’s exceeding my expectations,” said Lorna Lee ’22. “The hot chocolate is delicious, everybody looks so cute ice skating out here, the ice sculpture is so cool…Even though it’s cold, it’s still a great time.”
“I thought it was going to be like Fall Frenzy, which was a little lame because it was raining out, but this is nice,” added Jill Foy ’22.
“It’s really cold, but I love the spirit,” said Amy Liu ’22. “It warms me up.”