April 25, 2019

Digging into the history of CVU’s Winter Carnival

By Emily Dykes

Champlain Valley Union High School

Screaming students, racing trikes and a questionable victory by seniors. Normal schools wouldn’t even think of this. Except for CVU. The CVU Winter Carnival incorporates all of these things into one of the most enjoyable days of the year. With the crazy outfits of spirit week, to the trike race, to the original creative class dances, each year’s Winter Carnival brings a series of new ideas and traditions within our own CVU community.

What’s great about Winter Carnival is that any student can be involved in these different activities; however, few students know the history behind the day. As the Snelling House Director and co-advisor for Student Council, Katherine Riley has overseen much of the preparation of the carnival over the past 13 years. As a co-advisor, Riley’s favorite part about the day is seeing students come together and truly become a team. This, in fact, was the reason why the annual festivity was created in the first place.

As Interim Nichols House Director Connie Metz said, “The school has not always been as cohesive as it is now and Winter Carnival was one of the ways they felt they could build community.”

For more than 35 years, this tradition has been a fun, exciting way to unite all classes as well as fuel fun rivalries. It all started when former principal Jim Fitzpatrick approached the student council in hopes of creating an activity to build up school wide community. Throughout the past, principals like Fitzpatrick, Val Gardner and Sean McMannon have developed Winter Carnival into what it is now.

The trike race is the oldest part of this school wide tradition. Former Principal Val Gardener approached student council in hopes of creating a new part of Winter Carnival that made the day even more exciting.

Metz said, “The trike race was started about 20 years ago by Tom Manchester, a member of student council. He thought it would be a great idea to have the race, so it was really kid initiated.” From senior Mari Caminiti’s point of view, the trike race is the most exciting part of the day and most spirited.

However, many students are unaware of the work that goes into these vehicles. In order for students to be involved with making the trike, they must have either a background in metal fabrication or have taken the semester-long course here at CVU.

Olaf Verdonk, Design Technology and Math teacher, and Dick Francis, Design Technology teacher, are both facilitators of the mechanics behind the trikes. Both Verdonk and Francis aid the students making the trike, yet let the students be in charge of their bike. Things were very different in the first few years of the race. There were very serious regulations and guidelines for the trike itself. For both safety precautions and fairness, the rules were applied to each class trike. As the years went on the guidelines weakened and now there are almost no regulations, but the obvious need for three wheels making it a true tricycle.

The newest tradition of Winter Carnival is the class banners that cover the walls of Four Corners. Students in their respective class councils typically begin to work with potential designs three weeks before the carnival. From the brainstorming stages, to the actual sketching of the picture, the purpose of the banner is to show how unique each class is. The tradition of the banners was just adopted last year. The use of the class walls was made in hopes of further showing each class’s theme to the school.

As one of the most exciting parts of the Winter Carnival, the dances connect students of all different interests. When asked about what makes it so special, Riley said, “Any class that works together and unites different people into one dance stands out to me.” For many years the dances were not taken as seriously as they are now. For example, the teacher’s dances have been inconsistent and they did not even have one for a few years until recently.

Although some students choose not to participate in the activities before the race, they are loads fun and have plenty of history behind them. This year’s activities included a basketball game, ultimate frisbee, karaoke, rail jam, scholars bowl, and hockey.

Metz talked about how activities in the past have included “Bash the Trash” and a pie eating contest. “Bash the Trash” consisted of students taking bats and hammers to an old junk car. This car would be obtained by the school and then placed on the green for students to start bashing. The pie eating contest only ran for a few years in the late 1990s and it included both students and teachers.

As CVU’s Winter Carnival will continue, new classes will pass through this school and offer new and innovative traditions. Every single year it slightly changes into a new carnival and no two Winter Carnivals are the same by any means.

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