Embrace winter

Kathlyn Hotynski

With the recent arrival of winter, many of you may be looking for a warm place to hibernate rather than face the wrath of northern Wisconsin. Despite how tempting this might sound, the University Activities Commission is sponsoring a weeklong event to chase away your winter blues.

The 2007 Winter Carnival kicked off its activities on Feb. 9 and will continue through Feb. 18 with a variety of activities encouraging students to get involved and have some fun along the way.

Embracing all that’s winter, the carnival is sure to spark a variety of interests. From an ice fishing tournament to a snow sculpture contest to the Mr. Freeze pageant, students can make the event what they want.

The week already started out right as Eau Claire’s Rod and Gun Club hosted the first annual ice fishing tournament on Half Moon Lake.

Dan Platta, the Rod and Gun club’s vice president, was happy to see the great turnout – nearly 50 students – despite the cold weather. Platta credits the carnival in a collaborative effort to get students out on the ice.

“A lot of people get lazy in the winter,” Platta said. “This (carnival) has been huge in getting people outside. It’s given (many) the opportunity to do winter activities.”

Following the success of this weekend, the club is already in planning for another tournament to follow this spring, Platta said.

“We haven’t had a lot of tournaments in the past, but saw how well this would fit with the winter carnival and what we could do,” Platta said.

Melissa Briggs, the UAC programming director, said the focus of the carnival is just to have fun.

Briggs is involved with many aspects of the carnival, including the Mr. Freeze pageant.

The competition fits the role for the traditional pageant, except this time it’s with men, Briggs said.

Ryan Canton, former Mr. Freeze, said he wasn’t that enthused about last year’s activities and never intended to be involved in the first place.

His involvement resulted from the inability to say no to the peer pressure of friends, he said. Now, looking back on the experience, he’s glad he took the time to have fun with it.

Like any good college student, Canton said he used the resources he had and dropped by the local goodwill to pick a “hideous” purple suit as his winter wear as well as plaid pants, a mismatched sport coat, and cowboy boots to complete his formal attire.

Needless to say, Canton said he felt a little underdressed compared to the others.

“They came in expecting it to be serious, more like a beauty pageant,” Canton said. “I felt bad because they had worked hard to put together their outfit and talent while I had just thrown mine together.”

Despite these anxieties, Canton’s good natured attitude managed to win over the judges, Briggs said.

“It’s a growing event,” Briggs said. “We had maybe three (guys) the first year, seven or nine last year, and we’re expecting ten to fifteen this year.”

Higherground will be hosting the event on Thursday, as well as the “It’s your duty, shake your booty” dance competition and a Mardi gras-themed dance.

Karen Schupp, the manager of Higherground, said she noticed an increased participation overall with the events in the past two years.

“All of Higherground’s events have been growing,” she said. “Because this is only our third year, people are still learning about our events. I do see it as being popular, especially among the freshmen.”

The dance competition involves no rules or limitations and provides a variety of music, although it is subjective to what the judges like, Schupp said.

If dancing isn’t really your thing, maybe creating a song strikes your fancy.

For all those aspiring songwriters and singers, the Cabin will host a competition this weekend, Briggs said.

For two nights, anyone can show up for a chance to win a one-hour gig at the Cabin and open for a concert coming in May. Last year’s competition drew as many as fifteen performers and a substantial crowd who had a say in the judging, Briggs said.

Whatever your interest, UAC has made a considerable effort to spark it.

“I tried to make a bigger event for the campus by creating more original (activities),” Briggs said. “We just wanted more events so more students would be involved.”

After homecoming, nothing is organized in a way that achieves the same kind of Blugold spirit, Briggs said.

This week brings back that sense of community that’s appropriate for the weather, Platta said.

Schupp agreed with that idea.

“It really says something about Eau Claire,” Schupp said. “We have a good support system and many volunteers willing to do something. That really says something about the kind of students here.”