A brief history of Winter Carnival

This+undated+image+from+a+past+Winter+Carnival+shows+a+snow+statue+depicting+the+fairy+tale+of+the+old+woman+that+lived+in+a+shoe.+

Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections

This undated image from a past Winter Carnival shows a snow statue depicting the fairy tale of the old woman that lived in a shoe.

Madison Degnitz, Lode Writer

As the 100th Winter Carnival approaches, the Michigan Tech community is reminded of the long history the university holds, including its many beloved traditions. To many, Winter Carnival is almost synonymous with Michigan Tech, as the annual festivities have provided decades of memories for current and past Huskies. 

The first Winter Carnival, held in February of 1922, was known as the “Ice Carnival,” a one-day celebration held in the old Amphidrome structure in Houghton’s downtown. The Amphidrome, an ice arena that was the original home of many local hockey teams, including the Huskies, was located on the site of present-day Dee Stadium. This pioneering festival boasted a circus theme and featured live music, student performances, and a faculty-student hockey game.

Winter Carnival has been held on Michigan Tech’s campus annually since its 1922 inception, with a few exceptions. There were four-year and two-year lapses during the Great Depression and World War II, respectively. 

In 1934, following the Great Depression hiatus, Michigan Tech’s Blue Key National Honor Society Chapter took on the task of organizing Winter Carnival, and they have hosted it ever since. Blue Key grew Winter Carnival from its one-day, Ice Carnival predecessor to the multi-day celebration it is today. 

The royalty competition was added in 1928, originally known as the queen competition. Women were judged on their beauty, responses to questions, and agility in various winter sports. 

The two-night hockey feature became an integral part of Winter Carnival in 1934. Snow sculptures began popping up around the Houghton community in 1936. 1946 saw the creation of the Stage Revue, and the annual Beard Competition began in 1948.

The Sno Ball, Winter Carnival’s formal dance component, first appeared on the event list in 1959. Due to Michigan Tech’s low population of female students, local women were brought in to dance with male students. 

The 1990s saw the addition of other Winter Carnival games, such as Tug-o-War, as the festival became the competition student organizations know it as today. Broomball, which had been played recreationally beforehand, became an official Winter Carnival event during this decade, too. 

Winter Carnival has a long and happy history on Michigan Tech’s campus over the past 100 years. Best of luck to Blue Key as they host this year’s carnival —let’s hope the next 100 years are just as memorable!