There is a time on the New Hampton School campus when the cold grip of New England tightens, snow totals rise, and the crunch of the snow beneath your feet seems like a never-ending cacophony. We call this time February. But, as the old adage goes, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” and so was born, Winter Carnival.
Some might be surprised to learn that this weekend-long festival is nearing its 100th birthday as of 2023. Although the name has remained constant, the event has evolved over the years to include a range of outdoor winter activities and social events consistent with the times.
Still a co-ed school at the time, the first Winter Carnival was a one-day event that featured competitions between students and a female and male winner of each event. An account from the 1923 Hamptionia recalls the event’s success from its inception, where “nearly every boy and girl in school took part.” Four events were featured, including a ski race and a ski jumping competition on Shingle Camp Hill, and a snowshoe race on the athletic field. However, the final competition—which has unfortunately gone undocumented—”turning somersaults on snowshoes” was sure to catch a lot of laughs.
The 20s Get Roaring
By the late 1920s, the school had become the New Hampton School for Boys, and the Winter Carnival was the most highly anticipated event of the year. The event expanded into a weekend full of activities and enjoyed with the company of a neighboring girls’ academy. Arriving on a Friday afternoon, girls were housed in Berry Hall. They were welcomed with a tea dance and a handful of recreational activities such as skating, skiing, and tobogganing.
The school also introduced the arts into Winter Carnival around this time, hosting various one-act plays by the drama club, glee club performances, and concerts by the school’s orchestra throughout the weekend. A formal dance was held on Friday evening, which ran into the morning’s wee hours and gave the two schools a chance to mingle.
Sometime in the ’30s, the formal dance became a coronation ball, introducing the naming of a Queen and her court from one of the female visitors. On all accounts, the boys of New Hampton School were heartbroken when “the girls left town Sunday morning, leaving devastation in their wake,” according to the 1930 Belfry, and all looked forward to continuing the tradition the next year.
Broadening the Scope
While the snow-shoe somersaulting competition was unfortunately cut from the schedule, the standard skiing and snow-shoeing events remained, and other exciting competitions were introduced. There was a massive snow sculpture competition between the residential houses which was judged and winners awarded. But, one event in particular—which would likely not be included in the school’s current insurance coverage—was skijoring, in which skiers race each other while being pulled by horses.
In true New Hampton School fashion, Winter Carnival also created an opportunity to face off against the rival Tilton School in a little friendly competition. As one of the weekend highlights, the Men’s Varsity Hockey team took on the black and gold on the upper pond with no lack of fan favor.
A Century Later
Over the past century, the carnival has found its way on and off the schedule of events at New Hampton School. The range of activities has had a 21st-century facelift, and the Student Life office has worked hard to find new and exciting ways to celebrate winter in the White Mountains of New England. This year’s Winter Carnival schedule will feature a broomball tournament (always a favorite on campus), sledding on Burleigh Mountain, and the first-ever pairs figure skating competition on the upper pond. We are excited for this year’s festivities and for many more Winter Carnivals to come!