'A Blizzard of Unbelievable Beasts' Arrives Next Week

This year's winter carnival celebrates elusive creatures who may or may not exist.

Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Yeti, the Jersey Devil, Mokele-mbembe—these and many other fantastic beings will attend, at least in spirit, this year's winter carnival, A Blizzard of Unbelievable Beasts: a Carnival of Cryptid Creatures.

Dartmouth's annual three-day tribute to winter starts Thursday, Feb. 6, with an opening celebration held, for the first time, under a large inflatable dome on the Green. The celebration will bring a packed schedule of events.  (Events are subject to change, depending on the weather.)

So what's a cryptid?

"Cryptids are creatures in folklore that may or may not be real," says Samantha Fried '22, one of the event organizers on the Winter Carnival Council. "These tales stretch from New England to the Himalayas, and it's an idea, a mystery, that can be really appealing. We're here in the middle of the woods, and it's kind of fun to wonder what could be behind that snowy tree, at dusk. Any shape could be Bigfoot. Both skeptics and believers are welcome."

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Winter Carnival 2020 poster
Lauren Gray '20 designed the winning poster for this year's winter carnival. (Photo courtesy of Collis Center for Student Involvement)

Work has begun on a tall snow sculpture rising from the center of the Green. Organizers won't say exactly what shape it will take, weather being the wild card, but it will likely be a creature rarely, if ever, seen on campus or anywhere else in the Granite State.

Volunteer builders are still welcome, and can get involved by emailing [email protected].

"One of the reasons student organizers like this theme is that it has a cross-cultural reach," says David Pack, associate director of student involvement at the Collis Center. "Cryptids are found in many different belief systems across the globe, and people can bring to the celebration their own traditions and favorite folklore."

For example, on Friday, Feb. 7, at the organic farm, students can swap stories, drink hot chocolate, and meet a new resident pet. Rides will be offered to and from campus. 

Costumes are encouraged, especially at the annual human dogsled races on the Green starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8, and at the "bigfoot" snowshoe races, starting at 1:30 p.m. 

But not every cryptid inhabits a cold climate. 

"In Hawaii, where I come from, there are folk tales about 'menehunes,' small humanoid creatures who roam around the islands," says organizer Juan Miche Rosales '20.

Snow sculpture chair Christopher Cartwright '21 spent the fall term in Scotland, so he didn't help choose the carnival theme, but he's totally on board. "I hiked around Loch Ness, looking for the lake monster, Nessie," says Cartwright. "I talked to this man who has lived on the shore for 28 years and has seen Nessie. So that's the closest I got, secondhand."

Cartwright's not sure whether there are any monsters in Occom Pond, but he might investigate during the polar bear swim at 3 p.m. on Friday. The following day, at 4:30 p.m., following a popular vote, winners will be chosen in the ice sculpture contest. Then, too, cryptids may come out of hiding.

In the past, Dartmouth's winter carnival has hosted ski races, but this year the College ski team will be competing at the Bates College carnival at Sunday River in Maine. At the Dartmouth Skiway, undergraduate students will get 99-cent ski lift tickets all day Saturday.

And, as always, there will be indoor sports Friday and Saturday, including women's hockey, squash, and basketball, and men's squash, tennis and hockey.

The Hopkins Center will be hopping this weekend, with films (Frozen II, of course) and the Winter WhingDing a cappella show starting at 8 p.m. Saturday.

"From the Highlands of Scotland to the forests of the Pacific Northwest, around the girdled Earth to the Himalayas, we're expecting more than just a flurry of folklore for this year's carnival of cryptid creatures," proclaims the carnival website.

Charlotte Albright can be reached at [email protected].