Winter Carnival

by Kevin Thorie, University Archivist


Throughout Stout's history, students have found many ways to beat the winter doldrums. Ice fishing, skiing, skating and several other sports helped to break the monotony of winter. Many organizations sponsored dances, skits and various kinds of entertainment, such as Alpha Sigma Alpha's "Sadie Hawkins Week."
Still, the only activity that was sponsored by and for the entire Stout community was the Winter Carnival. It began slowly, but rapidly grew until it rivaled homecoming in popularity. After several decades, interest in the carnival began to slowly decline and, now, is only remembered as a part of Stout's history.


Picture above:
Winter Carnival queen candidates for 1969 were from left to right: Linda Wiedenmeier, Cathy Lapcinski, Rosanne Cuda, Jan Pecha, Karen McChesney and Judy Lahti. McChesney was crowned queen.

An outstanding event

The first Winter Carnival was held Jan. 31, 1953. The event, coordinated by the Stout Student Association, began with an ice fishing contest on Lake Menomin. Fishing was followed by a broom-can hockey game between the Phi Omega Beta and Phi Sigma Epsilon fraternities.

After a basketball game between Northland and Stout (Stout won 68-57), Pallas Athene held its annual Snow Brawl Dance, where the first Winter Carnival queen, Dorothy Brownell, was crowned. Other events included a beard growing contest, speed skating and a comedy act. Ice sculpting had been planned, but was postponed due to a lack of snow.

Little was said in the Stoutonia or Tower following the first Winter Carnival, but it must have been a success; the following year it was expanded to two days. New events included cross-country ski and snowshoe races as well as a log-sawing contest. The theme for the two-day celebration was "Winter Sports." Unfortunately, the ice sculpting was again cancelled because of lack of cooperation from the weather. Even so, the Stoutonia called the event "outstanding."

A Stout institution

By its third year, the Winter Carnival had become firmly established as a Stout institution. New events included tug of war and a snowball fight. (The "Stout hearted men" won the snowball fight on Saturday after being defeated by the women in the tug of war on Friday.)

For the first time, the weather cooperated for the ice carving contest-the Phi Sig's ice carving entry received the prize for "most original" and the Alpha Sigma Alpha's was termed the "most beautiful."

Numerous awards were given during the course of the third carnival. Loren Johnson received the most points for participating in carnival events; Jim Schlagenhaff and Neil Larson won in the beard-growing contest; and Don Pritchard and Alice Yamamoto were crowned as carnival royalty. The Stoutonia concluded the coverage of the event by "giving a thank you to all who made the Winter Carnival so very successful."

Ice artworks

As the Winter Carnival gained popularity at Stout, it also became popular with the people of Menomonie and the surrounding area. This was largely due to the ice sculptures. Many student organizations and clubs put a lot of work and time into creating their artworks.

A 1956 Stoutonia gave the following report of that year's sculptures:

"Saturday morning everyone was up bright and early working on their various ice-carvings. The Rifle Club depicted a scene often seen on Lake Menomin, that of ice fishing. APO remembered its patriotic duty by giving the carnival an American flag, 'For God and Country.' Pallas Athene gave an 'Egyptian Sphinx.' The winners of the most beautiful carving, the Hyperian's, gave a 'Winter's Crown' for the occasion. Alpha Sigma Alpha displayed their 'ASA Treasures' and won first as the most original. 'Casper', was the little fellow introduced to the campus by Sigma Sigma Sigma. The Phi Sigma Epsilon fraternity gave the 'Seal of Approval' to the occasion.

Jalopy equality

As the campus entered the 1960s, the Winter Carnival continued to grow. New activities such as cardboard sliding and toboggan races were added. One of the most popular new events was the introduction of jalopy races on Lake Menomin in 1960. (Lynwood Hall won the first set of races with Bill Hext driving.) Three years later the "Powder Puff" race was added for women drivers only. (Tainter Hall with driver Nancy Gordon won the first race.) Two years later the "Faculty Fiasco" was first offered with Pookie Albrecht driving the winning entry.

Peak of popularity

The Winter Carnival probably reached the peak of its popularity in the late '60s. The activities were expanded to an entire week and received as much attention as homecoming in local publications. Many new events were added to the festivities, such as the kissing slalom, tricycle races, snowman building, toilet races, and paper bag, pipe smoking and ice cream licking contests.

Bands that performed at the Carnival were often internationally known, including the Kids Next Door and the Serendipity Singers. In 1969, the carnival was expanded to a total of nine days. It looked like it was here to stay.

Unruly revelry

The first serious problems concerning the Winter Carnival began in 1972. A few years earlier, a near-beer drinking contest was added to the festivities. When the drinking age was lowered to 18, regular beer was substituted. Apparently, during that year's Carnival, several Stout students and others overindulged.

According to the Stoutonia, "Problems were encountered when both students and band members showed up with their own bottles. Three trash cans full of wine and liquor bottles were collected that night." In addition to the drinking, thefts and vandalism were common and many people were offended by the foul language of the bands.

For the most part, though, the Carnival was successful. The actions of a few people caused discomfort for some, but, overall, the event was positive for Stout and the surrounding community. It wasn't until the following year that an incident happened that seriously affected the future of the Winter Carnival.

Sculpture outrage

The 1973 Carnival occurred during an interesting time in the nation --- the War in Vietnam was coming to an end and the country was starting what was to become the agony of Watergate. Cynicism gripped the nation and was reflected in many of the ways in which students learned to express themselves. At any rate, this was one of the reasons given to answer why two fraternities who participated in the ice sculpture contest created their entries, titled "Blue Moon" and "Kiss a Beaver Good Morning."

These sculptures caused a considerable amount of outrage towards the two fraternities. One of the kindest statements was that they showed "poor judgment and questionable merit." A formal motion from the Stout Student Association expressed their "strong disapproval and disgust" with the fraternities. It was even rumored that a group of women on campus were organizing a vigilante group to have the sculptures destroyed.

Perhaps, though, what was most damaging to the Winter Carnival was the community's reaction. For many years people from the area had come to Stout to view the ice sculptures. Most of them were less than enthused with the two scandalous sculptures --- especially people with children. As one person wrote, "As a taxpayer, a town citizen or a parent, I would have to question some university officials' moral integrity in permitting the type of ice carvings seen on campus this past week."

To blame the demise of the Winter Carnival on the actions of two fraternities would certainly be unfair. After all, the celebration continued for another eleven years. It would seem, though, that this was the start of the decline of the carnival. For example, the following year there were only half the number of ice carvings as in the previous year

Mixed feelings

One of the most interesting things about the 1975 Winter Carnival was the selection of Kelly Thompson as the queen. Thompson was also a reporter for the Stoutonia and has left the only first-hand account from a member of the royalty.

After describing how she became involved and the hectic schedule of a participant in the contest, Thompson wrote, "When asked if I would do it again I couldn't answer. It would have to be a spontaneous suggestion. When I thought about the work and time involved, I would say 'no.' If I thought about the fun and publicity for my sponsoring groups, I would say 'yes.'"

Decline into history

During the late '70s, interest in the Winter Carnival began to decline. There were fewer articles in the Stoutonia, less coverage in the Tower, and press releases about the event ceased to be issued.

In 1980, the carnival again became a major topic, but this largely had to do with what were considered negative aspects of the selection of royalty. This decline continued to the extent that I have not been able to identify the royalty of 1979 and 1981. (If anyone knows, please tell me.)

Perhaps if the Winter Carnival had greater involvement from alumni or the administration, it would have continued as homecoming has. Many of the students who planned and coordinated the carnival decided that the money, time and effort that went into the festivities could be better spent elsewhere. In 1984, after 31 years, the Winter Carnival passed into Stout's history.