Winterfest Weekend, an annual event featuring diverse performances and activities, took off last Friday. The weekend was a great success.

Both Yellowjacket Weekend and Winterfest Weekend have been traditions at UR for decades; however, in 2004, a committee established to examine programming on campus recommended that the University should focus on four large community weekends rather than many small events. Since that time, the concept of the four large College Community Weekends – Yellowjacket Weekend, Meliora Weekend, Winterfest Weekend and Spring Showtime – were developed and promoted. Annually, each weekend is continually enhanced with larger programming efforts and increased participation.

Winterfest has always included a performance by a comedian, but the other activities have varied throughout the years, and 2008 brought about many innovative changes.

The weekend began with the men’s and women’s basketball games against the respective opposing teams from Washington University in St. Louis. In between the two games, UR’s new mascot’s name was unveiled and announced to be Rocky and was accompanied by the sale of limited edition mascot T-shirts. The Palestra was crowded close to full capacity and set a season-high attendance record for the basketball games.

Friday night featured Comedy Central’s comedian Demetri Martin. Turnout at the performance was extremely high, with tickets selling out well in advance. The show was well received by the Rochester student community.

“Demetri Martin was phenomenal and so funny. The show was completely sold out and those who were able to attend the event had a great time,” President of the 2009 Class Council and junior Yorda Yenenh said.

The newest addition to Winterfest Weekend was Winter Wonderland, which took place on Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. In attempts to replace the traditional Casino Night that typically takes place during the weekend, the Class Councils worked and partnered with the Campus Activities Board, Dining Services, the Black Students’ Union, groups from residential life and the Students’ Activities Office during the fall semester to create a more interactive and celebratory event for the student body.

“We wanted to do something that would be new and exciting, that would bring as many people out as possible and that we could turn into a tradition event that would happen every year that people could look forward to,” President of the 2010 Class Council Eric Weissman said.

The objective of Winter Wonderland was to embrace winter and celebrate all that the outdoors has to offer. Students came in herds for free s’mores and hot chocolate, warmth from fire pits, horse-drawn carriage rides, snow shoe rentals, a Siberian husky display and the viewing of the live ice-sculpting of Rocky, the new school mascot. Campus facilities provided aesthetic decorations with torches, fire pits and lighting on the Wilson Quadrangle, and Dining Services provided a complete meal in Hirst Lounge in Wilson Commons that complimented Winter Wonderland.

The free Rochester winter beanie giveaway drew hundreds of students to the event, many of whom waited in line for half an hour for the giveaway. The dinner menu provided an array of choices, including hot dogs, chili and mac and cheese soup. Dinner, was served to over 500 people, all 500 Rochester beanies were claimed, more than 400 bags of s’mores and 1,000 extra marshmallows were distributed, and countless cups of hot chocolate and hot apple cider were enjoyed by all those who attended.

A quick glance around the area confirmed that that there was a constant crowd by the huskies, that every single horse-drawn carriage was filled to capacity and that each fire pit was surrounded by people roasting marshmallows and schmoozing.

Organizers of the event felt that the whole weekend was characterized by endless enthusiasm and hard work and was ultimately an undeniable success.

“I was proud of all the groups, including our facilities team, and loved the enthusiasm of all our students enjoying the event,” Associate Dean of Students Anne-Marie Algier said.

President of the 2008 Class Council Bobby Sanborn captured the overriding response to Winterfest Weekend 2008.

“In my four years, this was by far the greatest turnout and the most number of sold-out events for Winterfest. There was, and is, such a buzz going around campus. This was great for the Rochester community and I think really bolstered our school spirit,” he said.

Venkateswaran is a member of the class of 2011.

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