ANDY THOMAS: Fun, Games Galore At Winter Carnival
This past weekend saw the 97th Dartmouth Winter Carnival, at which students thumb their noses at old man winter and throw a 96-hour weekend party complete with ice statues, skiing and other interesting competitions that assist them in braving the severe cold and the steady pressures of schoolwork.
I happened to be there, as this year's Carnival coincided with Club Officers' Weekend, in which I was a participant. Being there was a major dosage of rejuvenation for which I am always grateful. Some of the activities included a polar bear swim in Occum Pond at a chill factor of minus 2 degrees. Martha Stewart once attended this event (don't ask me why), where 200 participants and 400 spectators engage in the activity in which the ice has to be broken to allow it to proceed.
The brothers of Chi Heorot (formerly Chi Phi) hold an annual Carnival treat known as the "Kountry Kwencher" party, which includes the appearance of live farm animals and bales of hay, amongst other decorations. Live pigs (literal ones, according to The Dartmouth) were seen in the basement until a few years ago. The Dartmouth is America's oldest college newspaper, founded in 1799.
Unfortunately, Kountry Kwencher got quenched this year because they were on probation for some unspeakable reason. One brother publicly related, "Probation is a pain. My pong (beer ping pong) skills are suffering, my dance moves are getting rusty, and it's harder to wheel (don't know what that means) attractive girls at other frats."
Other social occasions at Carnival include the Kappa Delta Epsilon Tackies festivity, where participants dress up in all their favorite colors, textures and styles to create an outfit that keeps them warm with "enough sequins to distract fellow party goers from the fact that your bottom layer is long underwear."
SAE, my old fraternity, has a more or less formal party where women wear high heels and little black dresses but on their way to and from wear warm sweatpants underneath, with more suitable shoes to get through the snow and ice.
Alpha Chi Alpha does a beach party, and Sigma Nu has an "Early '80s" fest encouraging the use of spandex and "scrunchies." Theta Delta offers a Pig Roast. Some say that when you're partying like this, the best costume is a sleeping bag because not only does it offer warmth but also "you'll never know when you need a makeshift bed."
Author Budd Schulberg (Dartmouth '36) wrote the words to "Winter Carnival," a 1939 movie filmed at Dartmouth. Schulberg brought along his colleague, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who enjoyed himself so much at Carnival that he was fired from the set and ended up in a detox hospital.
My most memorable Carnival was in 1958, when I invited a very attractive blonde friend who was very well proportioned and loved to party. Thoughts of her arrival distracted me from my Friday afternoon final exam in physics. I had spent days on memorizing physics formulae only to open my test booklet to find them all referenced there. I knew I had done poorly, but I had my Carnival date to look forward to.
She arrived at the White River train station and looked stunning. It was time to forget about the physics exam and head for the frat house, where we chugged a few suds. By 8 p.m., she had disappeared into the arms of another and I was left empty-handed. This was not an uncommon practice, unfortunately. Just wasn't my day. I later found out that I not only had done poorly on the test, but also failed the course.
On this trip to Hanover, I learned a few interesting things based on a survey of the Class of 2010. Fourteen thousand students applied for admission to that class, and only 15 percent were accepted. And 1,081 showed up last fall for their freshman year. Forty-eight percent are males, with 52 percent female. Two-thirds came from public schools, with a pretty even distribution geographically.
About 30 percent are students of color, including 4 percent Native-Americans. Dartmouth was founded by Eleazor Wheelock in 1769 as a school primarily for Indians. Thirty-two percent of the class were high school valedictorians and 91 percent were in the top 10 percent of their class.
Twelve percent of the class are the first ones in their family ever to attend college, while 11 percent are legacies, or ones whose relatives were (are) Dartmouth graduates. Forty-five percent receive financial aid. The tuition, room and board is about $50,000 per year.
I partook of a neat college activity called "TASTE" (Take a Student to Eat). I was very lucky in having Alisa Yamasaki '08 join me for a private luncheon at the Norwich Inn across the river in Vermont. When I read that her major was molecular biology, I figured it would be a brief meal and conversation. Not at all.
This young lady, whose home is Boulder, Colo., fascinated me with numerous talents and interests. She is an accomplished musician with piano and viola. She is a swimmer and is delightfully conversant with an average old man like me. We became friends almost immediately.
Alisa and I made another date for 18 months from now, when she'll be graduating and I'll be at my 50th reunion, God willing.
I came away from the weekend thinking, "Why can't the world be like Dartmouth College?" (Apologies to all my Irish, Eli, Nittany, Longhorn, Sooner, etc., buds.)
Andy Thomas lives in Pinehurst. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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