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(February 7, 2002, Gazette)

Getting into the student union carnival
A blast of winter

Did you know students at Memorial’s St. John’s campus recently staged winter carnival, called Winter Blast 2002? Gazette student columnist Jeffrey Pardy was there to bring you all the details.

Being a rock star is what the winter carnival talent contest was all about.Being a rock star is what the winter carnival talent contest was all about.

In case you didn’t notice the posters stuck to the walls perhaps because half of them were ripped down immediately after they were put up and the ads in the Muse, winter carnival recently descended upon MUN. This year the carnival’s name was changed to Winter Blast in an effort to get more students, both residential and otherwise, involved in the festivities that took place over two weeks. For me, winter carnival always means that the Battle of the Bands (once called Band Blast) has come around again, since it’s the only event that I really cared about.

However, in an attempt to inform and entertain good readers of the Gazette, I decided to check out a number of events of this year’s blast.

I showed up at the food sculpting contest expecting to see mashed potato castles encircled with bubbling moats of gravy. However, upon seeing that all the products were still in their respective cans and boxes, I asked Marcus Penny, who organized this year’s blast, what was going on.

“One year there was no snow, or not enough snow to do an ice sculpting contest. Someone suggested that food could be used as a substitute, and that’s the way its been ever since.”

The Hatcher Foxes represented their house with a blend of violin and acoustic guitar ballads accompanied by tap dancingThe Hatcher Foxes represented their house with a blend of violin and acoustic guitar ballads accompanied by tap dancing.

Well, that’s not a bad idea. But why weren’t the contestants creating noodle Eiffel Towers and meatloaf Arc de Triomphes? Marcus informed me that instead of wasting the food, it is kept in its original packaging so it can go to the food bank after the competition.

But how does one make a crazy and original display out of a bunch of boring cans and boxes? In order to score points, the teams used the food, along with a number of required items and their own props, to create a display that answered the question, “What’s cooler than ice?” (Cooler than ice was the theme of this year’s carnival).

For example, Coughlan House made The Coughlan House Ski Resort and Lodge. This was an ingenious conglomerate of felt figures, a ski slope, and a ski lodge that looked something like a miniature version of White Hills Ski Resort. Devin Small of Barnes House, who helped create the Barnes House Bear, suggested the event was a great idea because it helps the campus food bank. Bowater decided to actually answer the question of the contest with their display entitled Liquid Nitrogen. Squires contributed a Dentyne Ice display to the competition, while Burke House created Winter Blast Shoot Out. Erin Flynn of Squires suggested the event is invaluable because the houses purchase the food that goes to charities after the competition.

Marcus Penny organized this year’s carnival.Marcus Penny organized this year’s carnival.

Games night was held in the Smallwood Centre, as students crowded around tables at the far end of the cafeteria to play popular games such as backgammon and crib. This event wasn’t accompanied by as much fanfare as some of the other events, such as the talent show, but the students still seemed to be having a good time. Perhaps games night is a less popular event not only because it doesn’t quite have the hype that the talent show does, but also because it is not accompanied by alcoholic beverages and constant mention of corporate sponsors.

The talent show was definitely one of the highlights of the carnival. The old TSC gym set the scene as hundreds of cheering students packed the wet floor and lined the dry floor banister to watch their contemporaries display their musical skills. The sounds of “B - O - H2O” and other house cheers rocked the air as fans waited in edgy anticipation. I’m sure I would have been chanting something too, if I hadn’t been the dork with the camera around his neck and tape recorder in his hand.

A variety of acoustic, electric, and vocal stars took the stage to compete for points and the glory of their houses. No matter what they placed, all enjoyed the shot at displaying their hidden skills for all to see. The Dirtbags, from Burke House, said that, “along with orientation, Winter Blast is the highlight of the year. Apart from the fact that the talent show was shortened and open mike night was cancelled, the Winter Blast is a notch better this year than it was in previous years.”
The Hatcher Foxes represented their house with a blend of violin and acoustic guitar ballads accompanied by tap dancing. Georgette Parsons and Jane of the Foxes suggested that the winter carnival and the talent show in particular, provides an excellent chance for students in residence to showcase their talents. Stephanie Lundrigan added, “It’s a great chance for everybody in the houses to get together and engage in a little bit of fun, healthy competition.”

Most of the people at this year’s winter carnival had just as much or more fun at this carnival than in the previous years. Marcus Penny did an excellent job of organizing the event, and kept up most of the traditions of the previous years. However, a few things bothered me about this year’s festivities.

Even though the attempt was made to include all university students in the events, only two non-house teams, Munity and Business 2004, participated in the Blast. There were hardly any non-residence students at the games. Is this because of poor advertisement, or because most students think Winter Blast is only for the students in residence? Secondly, over half of the events were gratuitously endorsed by corporate sponsors and were held in either the Breezeway or the TSC gym. After every two or three acts at the talent show, the announcer would stand up and reel off the list of companies that supposedly made the event possible. At one point the MC chugged a bottle of lemonade vodka on stage, which happened to be made by one of the event’s major sponsors. Some events, like the two Breezeway nights, had almost nothing to do with games and points, and everything to do with cover charges and drinking. The events that had nothing to do with moneymaking were surrounded by less fanfare and fewer participants. What was the main motivation behind Winter Blast for this year’s council, bringing students together or packing them into the bars? Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but you can judge for yourselves. For those who attended this year’s Winter Blast, it was a lot of fun. It was well organized and promoted under the constant guidance of Marcus Penny. However, I’m also willing to bet it was as much a blast for the council’s pocketbook as it was for the students of residence.