A Look Through The Years At Michigan Technological University’s Winter Carnival
Michigan Technological University was first founded in 1885 as the Michigan Mining School for boys. Located in Houghton near the Portage Lake waterway and Lake Superior, this small college would soon become one of Forbes top 25 STEM schools, featuring other programs in humanities, theatre, business, sports education, and more.
It wasn’t until 1922 when the school finally created a one day ‘Ice Carnival’ event to help with student morale that you see this University start to become what it is today. The first Ice Carnival consisted of figure skating and skiing contests in what is now the Dee Stadium, the birthplace of professional hockey. Like most things that surpass the timeframe that is a century, there will be setbacks along with the fun:
1922- Michigan Tech’s first Winter Carnival launches as a one day ice carnival event.
1924- Students traveled the Upper Peninsula in hopes of acquiring funds for the Carnival, but instead did a successful job at spreading the word about this annual event.
1927- Sled rides via plane. A plane was used to give sled rides at a maximum of 60 mph.
1928- Winter Carnival Royalty is introduced. Women compete in skating and skiing events in addition to traditional pageantry.
Carnival Parade is introduced.
1930-1934- Winter Carnival is cancelled due to the effects of the Great Depression.
1934- Sponsored by Blue Key Fraternity, Carnival is back and is beginning to look like the Carni we have all come to enjoy. The one day annual event has become a two day event. Houghton's business owners played a hockey game against Tech’s faculty and swept the ice away.
1936- Snow sculptures made their first appearance.
The school started this tradition when the Houghton Rotary Club offered a prize for the best statue built by the areas kids. Since this was the first time snow sculptures were attempted, the methodology in constructing the beautiful, intricate designs we know today took a few years of practice. Over the next coming decades, the process of building the giant snow sculptures will become much more refined for a faster process.
1940- Winter Carnival is moved from November/December to February so lack of snow is not a factor in beginning the festivities for Carni, this becomes a permanent change.
1943- While the students and faculty tried their best, 1943 would be the last Winter Carnival for the next coming years due to the war effort.
While many students were being drafted and unable to participate in the festivities, there weren’t many things to attend this year. Two days before Winter Carnival festivities were to commence, Houghton received one of its notorious winter blizzards. While the remaining students pushed themselves to uncover the snow statues, morale was missing with a lack of students and events.
1946- With the return of Winter Carnival after World War II, and wanting to make it the best, light hearted year possible, one of Michigan Tech’s most notable Winter Carnival activities has to be the addition of the skit. Now performed at Tech’s Rozsa Center for the Arts, The Stage Review brings laughs to its annual visitors.
1959- Winter Sno-Ball Dance has been introduced. However, since women weren’t allowed introduction to the University until 1968, Michigan Tech’s men sent for two buses filled with approximately 52 women for the Sno-Ball festivities. This tradition would continue until women were allowed to enroll at the University.
1962- The Flare Pageant (now Torchlight Parade) is introduced. This pageant takes place at Ripley Ski Hill and allows visitors to enjoy a night of skiing with a torchlit path.
1966 to 1972- Michigan Tech ships 500 snow balls to the students of Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos for the annual snow ball fight.
1979- The most successful Canadian rock group, Guess Who performs two concerts for Winter Carnival festivities.
1993- A few various activities get added to the annual docket: tug-of-war on ice, human sled dog racing, human bowling, fireworks display above Mont Ripley Ski Hill, etc.
2018- Sno-man left behind. Michigan Tech takes on the Guinness World Record for most snowmen built in a single hour. Huskies beat the record of 2,036 snowmen with their own unofficial record of 2,228 snowmen. The only record to have been broken on Michigan Tech’s football field.
Seeing as how this record was being attempted at a STEM school, you can guarantee that the Huskies made a diagram on how to best qualify and beat the current record within its requirements. While there are other events or competitions that haven’t made it throughout the Carnivals centennial timeframe, this celebration of Copper Country snow will continue to grow for current and future students.