Changes are being made to Winter Carnival

Photo by Victoria Panacci

Every January, students at Wilfrid Laurier University are invited to participate in Winter Carnival, the annual school spirit week that resurrects Laurier spirit after Orientation Week appears to be a thing of the past.

“It gives students something outside of the classroom … I think Winter Carnival can provide that opportunity for students to get involved and meet other people and step back from the chaos of school,” said Winter Carnival coordinator, Krista Bracco.

In the past, Winter Carnival has been ridiculed for being an exclusive event that supports drinking culture and excessive partying while students should be in class.

This year, the executives behind Winter Carnival decided to implement some changes to move away from those negative stigmas.

Kimberly Hutchings, vice-president of programming and services within the Students’ Union, explained the steps that were taken to steer Winter Carnival away from being an event solely based on alcohol consumption.

Small steps such as holding events in Wilf’s instead of the Turret were made to take the focus away from drinking.

There was a complete turnaround in the inclusivity of the event. Last year…I could see some issues with things personally.

– Kyle McCord, captain of Winter Carnival team

“Things like that help to make it more inclusive to students and also refocus it back onto student health and encourage students within our own programming to make healthier choices,” Hutchings said.

Mystery Bar Night, a trade mark event of Winter Carnival, was also transformed into Mystery Event Night.

Instead of taking participants to an undisclosed bar in Kitchener-Waterloo, they were taken to Chicopee to go tubing.

“There was a lot of negativity from past participants, me included,” Kyle McCord, fifth-year film student and captain of Winter Carnival team Eleventh Hour, said.

“Mystery Bar Night last year was a big, fun night for me … This year, turning it into Mystery Event Night and taking the ‘bar’ idea out of it was smart and it was actually a lot of fun just to go as a team, to go tubing at Chicopee and everyone was kind of shocked at how much fun it really was. You don’t need to drink to have fun with your team.”

Another event, the Beauty Pageant, was also taken out in efforts to be more inclusive.

“We felt that the pageant didn’t align with the values that Winter Carnival has,” Bracco said.

Hutchings elaborated further on why the Beauty Pageant has been viewed as problematic in past years.

“It became very much an event where mostly male students were encouraged to cross-dress,” Hutchings said, “and I think we really wanted to take the focus off of an event that was a little bit insensitive to transgender [people] … and refocus our programming to things that were inclusive to everyone.”

“Students value different things than they used to and they’re a little bit more aware of different cultures and different identities,” she added.

Altogether, the aims of the changes were to encourage inclusivity and healthy choices amongst participants.

“There was a complete turnaround in the inclusivity of the event. Last year, as a first time participant, I could see some issues with things personally, as an outsider who’s been involved with community work that is about getting people involved, [making people feel] inclusive and feeling comfortable in the community,” McCord said.

Those who plan Winter Carnival feel optimistic about the changes made this year translating into future events.

“I’ve been on the executive team for three years [sic] and this has been one of my best years by far. Our participants were great; we didn’t have any major issues that have maybe come up in the past.” Bracco said.

“I think we just set really clear rules from the beginning so participants knew what was expected of them.”

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