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Clarkson students reviving Ice Carnival tradition


POTSDAM — The frozen giants might return to Potsdam.

Clarkson University will host an Ice Carnival next week, which, weather permitting, will include an ice sculpture competition.

For decades, student groups at Clarkson and SUNY Potsdam would construct giant sculptures from ice and snow, competing to see who could build the most audacious wintery creation. “It has been a few years since there has been a festival,” said Wendy A. Kane, Clarkson’s assistant dean of students for student organizations. “I think it would be the late 1990s; 1999 was the last time they had a big one.”

That tradition was discontinued because of a series of warm winters and declining interest from student groups.

Potsdam’s Ice Carnivals can be traced back to 1931, when fraternities and sororities organized a competition to see who could build the most intricate edifice from snow and ice.

“We did a lot of study back from years previous,” said Megan H. Burke, public relations director for Clarkson’s student government. “20-30 years ago it used to be a huge thing here in Potsdam. It would be great to revive it.”

Two years ago, village trustees and the Potsdam Chamber of Commerce tried to prompt students to revive the event. That led to an abortive effort to have a carnival last year.

“All of the things they planned last year ended up being snow-dependent,” Ms. Kane said. “In an attempt to make sure they’re thinking about contingencies, most events this year are happening inside and outside.”

Now, Clarkson students are the driving force behind the Ice Carnival, Ms. Kane said.

“This year it is students doing all the heavy lifting,” she said. “We’re advising them, but we’re just assisting them in making things happen.”

Ms. Burke said the carnival was a way to get students interested in campus activities.

“We’re trying to get more people to come out on campus, and we’re trying to get more people participating,” she said. “A lot of people just want to hang out with their friends or stay in and play video games instead of being active in our school community. We think they’re missing an opportunity to get involved.”

As of Thursday, there were no plans for SUNY Potsdam groups to participate in the festival. Though the events are focused on Clarkson student groups, the Potsdam community is welcome to come as spectators, Ms. Burke said.

“Of course, we can accommodate outside groups if they want to participate; they just have to register at the student center,” she said. “A lot of that is being set up on campus. I know we’re trying to keep the campus open.”

Though the carnival’s centerpiece event depends on Mother Nature’s cooperation, there will be a slew of other activities.

The carnival will kick off Sunday with a student cookout and pie-eating contest outside of the Clarkson student center.

On Monday, the public can view student groups’ window paintings at the student center.

Bagdad Field will be stormed by human dog sled races at 6 p.m. Tuesday. “They have eight people pulling a sled,” Ms. Burke said. “It should be quite a spectacle.”

On Wednesday, the school will judge ice sculptures outside the student center from 5 to 6 p.m.

The carnival concludes Feb. 2 with a 7 p.m. men’s hockey game versus Cornell University, followed by the Ice Ball dance at the student center.

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