Published February 6, 2014
Cynthia Mgbeojiri was one of the first people to arrive at UB’s fifth annual Winterfest.
A sophomore pharmacy major, Mgbeojiri had attended the festival before, but the lure of this year’s new ice-skating rink outside the Student Union was too much for the avid skater to resist. And to her surprise, a synthetic indoor rink was constructed as well inside the Student Union lobby.
The outdoor rink, which opened the day of the festival, will remain open for the remainder of the winter season. Hours, weather permitting, are 3-9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Skates are available for use free of charge. A UB ID is required.
Hundreds of students, and faculty and staff members — of few of whom brought along their children — attended the event last Saturday, which continued the tradition of more than 50 years of winter festivals at UB.
Originally called Winter Carnival, the first such event was held in February 1948 and featured cross-country skiing, ski races and snow-sculpturing competitions.
Although the snow-sculpting competition remained as a staple of Winterfest, new attractions included a broomball tournament, snow tubing, ice bowling and horse-drawn wagon rides.
And if students preferred to stay indoors, they could play board games while enjoying chili-in-a-bag — a hearty portion of chili poured into a bag of Fritos or Doritos. An Xbox gaming station also was set up in the Student Union lobby, allowing guests to quench their zombie-hunting thirst with the video game Left 4 Dead.
However, the most popular attractions were outdoors, thanks to the ideal winter conditions — unlike the past two Winterfests, which featured little snow or ice.
It’s not hockey, it’s broomball
While students attempted figure eights on the indoor ice rink, the outdoor rink hosted a broomball tournament. Broomball is a sport similar to hockey, but instead of skates, players wore sneakers and boots. The sticks feature a small plastic shovel; the puck is replaced with a ball.
A mainstay since the first Winterfest, this year’s tournament featured five teams that competed for a trophy and Tim Hortons gift cards. After a double-elimination competition, the Molokai Cops overcame UB Women’s Hockey in the final round.
“Broomball has become the focal point of Winterfest,” says Karen Mayfield, assistant director of student employee development. “It isn’t an intramural sport at UB, so having it as a part of Winterfest brings many students together. It’s not very competitive and is about having fun when you’re playing.”
Across the field
With snow nearly to the knee, the Student Union field was not the ideal place to take a casual stroll. But it was the perfect spot for snowman- and igloo-building competitions.
Student teams built everything from the average snowman to a village of miniature snowmen. As time passed, however, teams became more creative, taking advantage of whatever they could find to enhance their creations. Participants quickly graduated from rocks and broken tree branches to candy, cookies, mittens and scarves — and even a bra for a snowwoman. Some even poured juice onto their snow sculptures to add a bit of color.
By the end of the day, sculptures included Jabba the Hutt, an upside down snowman, Godzilla attacking a crowd of snowmen and a blue Victor E. Bull. The winning creation was a sculpture of Aslan, a lion from the “Chronicles of Narnia” series.
When the sculpting ceased, snowball fights erupted. Some students took to a hill to slide down on garbage bin lids and plastic sleds, and two students brought snowboards as well.
Others crossed the field to meet the two stars of Winterfest: King and Prince, the two-ton, six-feet tall Percheron horses that provided wagon rides to the students around campus.
Winterfest was presented by the Office of Student Affairs, Division of Athletics, University Facilities and the Office of Sustainability.