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Origins

The Winter Carnival is a culmination of events that did not immediately gain popularity at Middlebury. In fact, it may not have ever been something that stepped foot on campus if it was not for the Middlebury Outing Club having to send ski teams to Dartmouth’s Winter Carnival due to the lack of winter activities organized at the college. The men’s ski team participated in winter carnivals at Dartmouth, McGill, and Norwich among others, though there was a lack of interest from the student body at Middlebury. While there was not a true Winter Carnival at Middlebury, there was something called a Winter Holiday, and the first one of these was held on February 23, 1920 at Noble’s Grove for the men and at Chipman Hill for the women. While Winter Holiday was not as official as Winter Carnival in terms of the school spirit it brought to the college or the organization needed to carry it out, Winter Holiday laid the foundation for something more formal to be introduced to Middlebury.

 

Winter Carnival Poster- 1934

 

The Winter Holiday in 1920 was an inter-class event, whereas the Winter Carnival in 1923 was a more organized gathering, which also served as an alumni homecoming holiday. This weekend included a hockey game, an intramural winter sports meet, and a variety show at the Opera House called “The Follies.” This school event was repeated intermittently and on a small scale until 1934, when the Mountain Club sponsored the first real Winter Carnival.

 

Winter Carnival Program- 1935

 

In 1931, a Winter Carnival was sponsored by the Outing Club. While this carnival was considered by many to be the first official carnival, it was not held annually, therefore reducing the validity of this event. This does not take away from the fact that it was considered important to the college. As expressed by The Campus in 1931, “The anniversary of George Washington’s birthday will be ushered in tomorrow by Middlebury’s first Winter Carnival, an event of considerable importance in the history of the college.” This carnival featured snowshoeing, ski races, a movie, and an informal dance which was considered homecoming.

 

The Campus- 1935

 

The 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid had a positive impact on the popularity of skiing. Interest in the sport grew rapidly in the 1930s across the country, and this was especially evident on the Middlebury campus. Middlebury’s first intercollegiate Winter Carnival, which was organized by the Mountain Club, was held on February 10-12, 1934. There are some people who believe the first Winter Carnival was indeed held in 1931; however, this was a one-time event and was not labeled as the annual carnival that was introduced in 1934. These beliefs may also be due to the fact that the Mountain Club was formed in the year 1931. The 1934 carnival was also significant because it was the first intercollegiate skiing meet for women at Middlebury. This first official annual carnival featured hockey games, an intercollegiate winter sports meet, a Women’s Jubilee, a skating carnival, a Lake Dunmore outing, tea dances, and a Carnival Ball.

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