David Chen/The Bates Student
In the first week of March 2021, Bates College is set to celebrate the Winter Carnival, an annual week-long celebration of the winter season normally filled with age-old traditions and games.
This year, though, Winter Carnival has a new look as event organizers re-examined what is possible given the concern for public health and accessibility. This new look runs contrary to the events that have been run in years past, but the new health conditions have also brought an awareness of what else this Bates tradition could involve.
Kian Moaledj, an assistant manager of Campus, Activities, and Traditions (CAT), told The Bates Student that the first priority was public health. This is in stark contrast to the physical closeness and bonding traditionally correlated with Winter Carnival. Planners considered the necessary social distancing protocols, masking rules, and general reduced contact as an imperative in order to keep community members safe.
Although COVID-19 has prevented the possibility for many staple events of Winter Carnival, such as Puddle Jump, events like skiing at Lost Valley and ice skating are still happening with social distancing rules. Despite this disruption in the execution of Winter Carnival, organizers still found ways to attract participation.
In-person events include a trivia night in Commons, a relay race in the library arcade, as well as a Village Club Series (VCS) Student Showcase in Olin Arts Center.
Ronan Goulden, Bates Outing Club (BOC) president for the winter semester, said that in order to accommodate COVID-19 guidelines, the BOC had to reimagine many of the traditional events. For example, instead of running puddle jump, students will be able to dress up in their silly outfits — usually reserved for jumping into ice water — for a scavenger hunt. Goulden said he found the new restrictions to actually be liberating, since it allowed him, along with the BOC, Campus Life, and CAT, to reinvent what Winter Carnival could look like.
“I often find winter to be a sad time, honestly,” said Goulden, referencing his upbringing in California and inexperience with the harsh winters that notoriously impact Northeastern life. After reflecting on his own experience with cold-weather activities and the Winter Carnival, Goulden stated that a traditional Winter Carnival is likely not accessible to everyone.
“What would be an event that myself, having very little experience with the snow, allow me to experience winter?” This question played a great role in his thought process when planning the activities for this week.
The push for more accessible activities is part of the BOC’s ongoing mission to make the club and its activities more welcoming to students who don’t have a robust experience with the outdoors. In addition, the BOC is working on paying special attention to the social, financial, and physical barriers of outing trips. Goulden said that the focus to make outing trips more accessible, beyond the Winter Carnival, is central to their reckoning with the class and racial divides he sees in the BOC.
The BOC president sees this toxic culture in aspects of the puddle jump, which will not be happening this year and will be replaced with a scavenger hunt. Goulden stated that it could be interpreted as an initiation into the Bates community, rather than a fun and welcoming activity for everyone. He says the Winter Carnival should be “to celebrate winter instead of someone’s willingness to jump into a cold lake.”
Instead, BOC intends to change what interacting with nature on and around campus means. Goulden states that he believes an outing is “any experience that allows you to see a place differently. That allows you to experience a place differently.”
In addition to this trend towards having more accessible activities, Moaledj said that the virtual aspects of Winter Carnival could lead to more events having a virtual component for students who are unable or unwilling to attend in-person. “I hope that is something we can keep for subsequent events and even subsequent years. Virtual events work and people attend, and they can be a lot of fun.” The virtual events include a video game tournament, a stand up comedy night, and a trivia night.
This pandemic has, globally, tested the strength of many traditions and activities many people took for granted. The planning of the Winter Carnival, though, demonstrates that restrictions could lead to a reimagining and reinvention of what we can do to bring this community together.