Dartmouth 2023 Winter Carnival to Have Pirate Theme

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Ahoy, matey! Who dares walk the plank for the polar bear swim?

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Animation of a pirate ship sailing the sea
Animation by LaDarius Dennison
2/06/2023
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Ever on the lookout for a theme with universal appeal, the Winter Carnival Council this year seized on “Winter CAAARRRnival: Shiver Me Timbers.”

Young or old, “everybody has some cultural knowledge of pirates,” says Piper Gilbert ’25, the council co-chair.

And, as co-chair Lucas Gatterman ’23 points out, it’s easy enough to dress for.

“We’re pushing for that golden age of piracy, tricorn hats, hooks on the hands,” says Gatterman, noting that costumes are encouraged at carnival events. “Think Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island.”

Speaking of classics, this year’s events from Feb. 9 to 12 will include an opening celebration, human dog sled races, and the ice sculpture contest. And, of course, hearty souls can opt to walk the plank for the polar bear swim in the icy waters of Occom Pond.

Student bellyflopping into a frozen Occom Pond
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(Video by Chris Johnson)

Undergraduates can celebrate snow season with free lift tickets Thursday and Sunday at Dartmouth Skiway, and a diverse lineup of other activities, both indoors and outside, co-sponsored by campus organizations. Some highlights include a sea shanty singalong, parrot origami, and pirate training camp. 

“The Winter Carnival Council this year has been really interested in bringing in other clubs and areas of the College to co-sponsor events. The figure skating team, Hood Museum of Art, Department of Music, and the Creative Gaming Club are all hosting events this year, among others,” says David Pack, director of student involvement at the Collis Center for Student Involvement. “It’s always great to be able to engage campus partners in a communal effort for this community tradition.”

And while it is Winter Carnival, the weekend will not be without heat. On Saturday, Feb. 11, from 2 to 5 p.m. on the Collis Patio, Phi Delta Alpha will host its annual chili cook-off to benefit the Fisher House Foundation, a nonprofit that provides housing and financial assistance to families of wounded veterans. Dartmouth President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 and his wife Gail Gentes will be on hand to help choose the winning entry.

Around 30 student volunteers are expected to help with the weekend events, say the organizers, who happily noted a bump in involvement, particularly by first- and second-year students.

Many of the new volunteers signed up during this year’s Club Fair, where Erica Dunne ’25 represented the Winter Carnival Council.

“I think students like having the flexibility to get really involved in an activity that has a very definitive end product and goal,” says Dunne, an economics major and member of North Park House.

Also, it’s a good opportunity to learn more about Dartmouth, she says. “You get to know all of the organizations, student groups, the administration, and the school itself when you’re working on the inside of such a big tradition.”

Excitement about Dartmouth traditions—and a love of snow—is what brought Gilbert on board.

“I was looking for a way to get involved this year, and this presented itself,” says the engineering major, who also belongs to North Park House. “I’ve had so much fun.”

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2023 poster with surfing pirate snowmen reading "Shiver me timbers!"
Landon Armstrong ’23 designed the poster and T-shirt for this year’s Winter Carnival.

Gatterman, who’s helped with the winter celebration for each of his four years at Dartmouth, calls the annual carnival “a wonderful tradition that keeps on growing and keeps on changing.”

And he plans to make the most of his final time around.

“I have threatened that the entire weekend I will not come out of a pirate voice.”

See a complete schedule of events.

Written by
Aimee Minbiole