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Bemidji State students participate in winter festival event

Howling January winds and an abundance of snow presented the perfect opportunity for Bemidji State students to fully embrace winter on Friday.

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BSU students snowshoe through campus during a winter festival event on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at Bemidji State.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Howling January winds and an abundance of snow presented the perfect opportunity for Bemidji State students to fully embrace winter on Friday.

Sponsored by BSU’s Campus Activities Board, Department of Campus Recreation and the Hobson Memorial Union, the winter festival event allowed students to choose from varying winter activities from snowshoeing to snow fort building, or remaining inside for “Build-a-Beaver” while enjoying donuts and some hot cocoa.

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BSU student Caleb Travis straps on a pair of snowshoes during a winter festival event on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at Bemidji State.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The first three students to brave the cold — Melody Hoza, Tricia Niznik and Caleb Travis — tried out snowshoeing by trekking from the lower HMU to the edge of frozen Lake Bemidji.

“It was really fun,” Hoza exclaimed as she removed her snowshoes. “I’ve only snowshoed back home in Alaska so it was fun to do it here in Minnesota, too.”

Mark Morrissey, assistant director of the BSU Outdoor Program Center , assisted several students in donning their snowshoeing gear as well as trying out an ice-climbing harness.

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Mark Morrissey, assistant director of BSU's Outdoor Program Center, teaches BSU student Melody Hoza how to put on ice climbing gear during a winter festival event on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at Bemidji State.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

He also demonstrated how to build a quinzee, a traditional snow hut, similar to an igloo which involves compacting a pile of snow that can then be hollowed out.

“When you get in there, you can light a candle and be in short sleeves when it’s 20 below,” Morrissey detailed regarding the structure’s insulation. “I’ve been in some during those awful, awful nights with terrible wind and cold. I was playing cards (in the quinzee). No joke.”

Morrissey’s efforts were slow to draw students outside at first, and thinking that he may be the only one outside for all students to watch through the glass windows, he added, “I’m going to be like the polar bear in a zoo.”

Those not brave enough to withstand the wind remained in the heated Lakeside dining area to enjoy hot cocoa, donuts and beaver craft kits composed of white fluff, a plush beaver sleeve and a mini BSU shirt.

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Students show off their "build-a-beaver" creations during a winter festival event on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at Bemidji State.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“I can tell this semester is going to be a hefty load with classwork and then doing Campus Activities Board,” CAB president and junior Sydney Paulson said. “This event is really good to have people take a minute to hang out and take time to de-stress.”

The Campus Activities Board, a student organization that provides entertainment and other student activities, ordered the beaver craft kits and worked to promote the event to students with the goal of having a winter festival every year.

“Throughout the winter, it can be a little easy to just hide out in your dorm room and not come out to do stuff,” HMU Associate Director Muriel Kingery said while checking in students. “But, free food gets you everywhere.”

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BSU students were offered donuts and hot chocolate during a winter festival event on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at Bemidji State.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Coinciding with an Admissions Campus Preview event, the plan was always to pique the interest of current and prospective students alike.

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“As BSU alumni, I want for them to have the tradition and culture we had when I was a student,” Kingery said. “It’s a chance to showcase to prospective students the activities we do throughout the year. We also make sure students who may have had a weird college experience (due to COVID) really have the opportunity to connect with the university and have that same sense of pride.”

Kingery detailed her hopes of someday hosting a week-long winter homecoming so that this year’s version of a winter festival wouldn’t be restricted to a single afternoon.

With close to 150 students being checked in at the event within the first hour of the three-hour schedule, it seems there would be an interest.

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Students scan their IDs before picking up "build-a-beaver" supplies during a winter festival event on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at Bemidji State.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“We planned this to be on a hockey weekend, and moving forward we’d like to make this a kickoff event for week-long winter activities,” Kingery added.

The three-hour in-person activities, especially coming out of campus lockdown last year, sufficed for this school year as Kingery left off, “You have to start somewhere.”

Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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