06 February 2002

winter carnival

Time for another trip to Houghton. This time Chris and Joe join me in the Neon for the trek. Amazingly and according to our little plan we made it out of Ann Arbor before 9:30 in the morning. The hope being that we could spend the evening wandering campus during the Winter Carnival All-Nighter. After 9 hours on the road we cruised up along the Portage into campus.
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Before finding the women we stopped on campus so I could pick up a couple pictures of the early action. Winter Carnival starts at 4pm on Wednesday. Everyone gets out of class and the All-Nighter statues can begin. By 6:30 work had started at most sites. Thanks to a big snow fall last week there was at least a usable amount of snow, but there still wasn't much more than a foot on the ground. In addition to the help from Facilities in their front end loaders people had to haul clean snow in from off campus.

I worked on two statues during my undergrad at Tech, both with for the Student Entertainment Board. My 3rd year we had near record amounts of snow and there was enough snow to build our 9 foot tall groundhog head (it's not a gopher, damnit) just around our site.

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Snow statues are usually made by making big blocks of icy snow and then carving them. You first need a form, a box, made of plywood and 2x4s. Next you start shoveling snow in to fill the form. A lucky soul in waders jumps in the form with a garden hose and stomps down the snow while wetting it down so it will form an icy block. The All-Nighter statues usually only use one or two forms, while the big month long statues will stack block upon block (placing a form on top of a frozen block of snow and repeating) building large and tall statues.

During the winters that Houghton had while I was there a group could fill their form, go out for dinner and fun for a couple hours, and then come back and have a huge block of almost ice. But this year the air was barely below freezing as the night began. I'm sure most of the All-Nighters never really froze before they were judged and all the statues suffered.

After the snow and water has frozen you pull off the wooden form and start to shape the statue. The statue is roughed out with hatchets and spades and other sharp implements. When the statue is structurally close to it's intended form you stop hacking snow off and start slushing snow on. You slush a statue by making buckets of slush (snow and a lot of water) and smoothing the slush over the statue, building features on as necessary. The slush is made with pure white snow so you're building a shiny white layer on the statue. Once the slush has frozen, the last step before passing out (judging is at 8am, hurry!) is glazing the statue. You glaze with a clothes iron. The iron melts a thin layer of snow which then quickly freezes, creating a really nice shiny layer of ice. SHINY! Don't forget the frozen jello letters describing your statue with a nice rhymed couplet. (no kidding!)

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I made several rounds through the statues with different people. My first round seemed to find promise as the temperature had fallen below 32F and people were starting to get busy.
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Food break with the gang. Fraggle points out, "Home Sweet Home, Availability Will Vary". At the table above, Chris, Megg, Alex, Fraggle, Joe, and Ila. Next, me, happy after devouring a strawberry shake (remnants last picture in row).

We returned to campus and Carny had gone to shit. Some people were still working on statues, but a lot of people had given up and a lot stopped before really finishing their statues. The temp had risen to 11 degrees above freezing, making most of the detail work on statues impossible. Sad.

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I was somewhat impressed with the only functional non-beer related statue I can remember seeing: a snow loud speaker made by an audio club. There was a speaker at the end of the statue and apparently the statue amplified the sound. I couldn't really tell, but that's ok. It was the sort of thing I like to see at an engineering school!
The duck by the admin building was a stage this year.