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SUNY Potsdam throws its own Winterfest to warm up returning students


POTSDAM — When classes begin next week, SUNY Potsdam students will receive a warm welcome.

The school will play host to Winterfest, a bevy of events to engage students in campus activities and encourage them to mingle with each other and the surrounding community.

“We started it to jump start the spring semester as kind of a welcome back for students,” said Ruth A. Policella, director of campus life. “We do a comprehensive welcome weekend in the fall, but had nothing similar for students in the spring.”

Winterfests are a tradition in some north country communities, like Tri-Town, Malone, Saranac Lake, Colton, and Canton. SUNY Potsdam has adopted that tradition for its students.

Beginning on Jan. 24, students will have the opportunity to dance, practice yoga, listen to a slam poet perform, play poker, sing around a bonfire and sink canoes in Maxcy Hall.

The series of events started seven years ago. A lot of the items that are now considered part of Winterfest already existed before the Office of Campus Life organized them, Ms. Policella said.

“Our office is in a coordination role,” she said. “We try to bring the clubs and offices together.”

One of the more popular events, the Maxcy Canoe Swamp, falls on Jan. 30.

“This canoe swamp program. Basically, we get boats, canoes, we put them in the Maxcy pool. You have to fill your opponents boats with water to sink them.”

The school’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance also falls under the Winterfest umbrella. Since students are in classes during the holiday, SUNY Potsdam honors Mr. King’s memory by holding a day of volunteerism and community service.

Since students will be attending their first classes of the semester, they have plenty of free time, Ms. Policella said.

“This time of year, students have a lot of time, their classes aren’t busy,” she said. “There weren’t a lot of activities happening in this timeframe, it kind of filled a good void.”

Ms. Policella said the event is important to help students get acclimated to their north country environs.

“I think it is really important for the campus and community,” she said. “I do think this is kind of a celebration of where we are regionally. In the last couple of years we had some snow events and there wasn’t any snow, hopefully the weather cooperates this year.”

Snow-based activities include a night ski trip to Titus Mountain, a cross country ski trip, and ‘Snoga’, where participants will practice yoga on the school’s quad.

“It is — literally — yoga in the snow, so it is fun,” Ms. Policella said. “You get dressed really warm, you go out, it is quite beautiful. The Counseling Center puts that on.”

Most of the events are open to the whole community.

On Feb. 2, during the final weekend of Winterfest, the school hosts the Snow Ball, a social dinner and dance for students.

“For us, that is the culminating event,” Ms. Policella said. “It is a semi-formal dance. We get anywhere from 800 to 900 students who attend it.”

Winterfest events will run until Feb. 3, when the celebration will culminate in the annual Bear Pride Night ahead of women’s basketball and men’s hockey and basketball games.

A partial list of Winterfest events:

Jan. 24:

A Capella bonfire at 8 p.m.

Location: Marshall Park

Jan. 25:

Night ski trip to Titus Mountain at 4 p.m.

Location: Venture Ourdoors

The Raspberry Brothers Roast “Twilight” at 8 p.m.

Location: Barrington Student Union multipurpose room

Jan. 26:

Texas Hold’em tournament, time TBA

Location: Barrington Student Union multipurpose room

Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service, closing program at 6 p.m.

Location: Knowles Conference Center

Speed dating at 10 p.m.

Location: Barrington Student Union Multi-purpose room

Jan. 27:

Kickboxing with Tom Sokol at 2 p.m.

Location: Maxcy Dance Studio

Zumba workshop at 4 p.m.

Location: Maxcy Dance Studio

Jan. 28:

Cross-country ski outing at 4 p.m.

Location: Venture Outdoors

Jan. 29:

Snoga at 7 p.m.

Location: Meet in Barrington Student Union lobby

Jan. 30:

Canoe swamp at 7:30 p.m.

Location: Maxcy Pool

Jan. 31:

The Evasons (live music) at 9 p.m.

Location: Dunn Theater

Feb. 1:

George Watsky - slam poet at 8 p.m.

Location: Dunn Theater

Feb. 2:

The Snow Ball Dinner at 7 p.m.

Location: 2nd Floor Thatcher Hall

Snow Ball Dance at 9 p.m.

Location: Barrington Student Union multipurpose room

Feb. 3:

Bear Pride Night at 6 p.m.

Location: Maxcy Hall

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