While it seems that the wintry weather is lingering, members of the Rensselaer community found time to embrace the brisk air and gather to take part in the revival of an old Rensselaer tradition that had been dormant for decades the Winter Festival. This year’s mid-winter celebration, titled “18 on ’86,” was held on ’86 Field on Feb. 28.
The festivities kicked off with a welcome from President of the Union Rob Odell ’09 and Grand Marshal Kara Chesal ’09. In remarks delivered to the crowd of students, faculty, staff, and their families, Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson noted that “even in stringent times, it is important not to lose our sense of fun and community.”
“Rensselaer students have asked for a Winter Festival for a number of years. I am delighted that we can do this for you now,” said President Jackson. “In a new format, we are reviving a Rensselaer tradition. The first winter event was held in 1949, sponsored by the junior class instead of holding a prom, called the Snowflake Saturnalia, it was held in the ’87 Gym. Eventually the name encompassed an entire weekend of winter events. The Rensselaer Outing Club organized outdoor activities during the 24 hours leading up to Saturnalia, dubbing it ‘Winter Weekend.’ The schedule of events included skating, ‘amusing games’ on ice, a snow sculpture contest, and bobsled, snowshoe, and ski races.”
According to Rensselaer archivists, the prom-like dance was abandoned sometime during the 1960s, and the last Saturnalia was held in 1970. Winter Carnival was reintroduced in 1978, and lasted through 1985.
“This year, we bring back Winter Festival this time, at the request of students, and this time, sponsored by the personal donations of the president and members of the cabinet,” President Jackson said. “You may have seen Molecules to the Max at the EMPAC sneak preview showings on Friday, Feb. 27. If you did, you will remember that Oxy and her friends are sent on a mission to discover ‘the secret of life.’ In the end, they learn that the secret of life is to enjoy it.”
The free carnival featured a variety of different activities, including ice skating, an ice carving demonstration, a juggling demonstration, a rugby demonstration, carnival games, caricature artists, and horse and carriage rides around the ’86 Field.
Additional groups involved in coordinating the event include Residence Life, the Rensselaer Union, Habitat for Humanity, the Curling Club, Ski and Snowboard Club, the Red & White Student Organization, the Interfraternity Council, the Women’s Rugby team, the Juggling Club, Terra Café, Sodexho, the Class of 2009 and Class of 2012, WRPI, and the Student Advisory Council of the School of Engineering, among others.
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