For 102 years, neither snow, rain, heat nor gloom of night has stopped Huskies from celebrating their renowned Winter Carnival. This year is no exception, says two-time Blue Key National Honor Society President Joe Dlugos, who leads the group that organizes and runs one of the largest winter celebrations in the nation.
Michigan Technological University’s 2024 Winter Carnival begins with the traditional All-Nighter on Wednesday, Feb. 7, and wraps up Saturday, Feb. 10. This year’s theme is “From Forests to Shores We Love the Outdoors.”
Dlugos enjoyed seeing the 2024 theme morph from a motto on a sticky note in the student organization office to a full-blown merch line featuring a Husky puppy gazing at an Upper Peninsula-shaped constellation against the backdrop of the northern lights.
Winter Carnival Schedule
This year’s Carnival features classic events like Stage Revue, human ice bowling, and Wednesday’s All-Nighter, in which student organizations compete in a one-night statue-building contest and competitors in the monthlong statue category put the finishing touches on their entries. Campus will be alive with music and camaraderie until the wee hours of the morning. Food favorites include free chili and the all-you-can-eat pancake booth sponsored by Tech’s Air Force ROTC. This year’s schedule also includes shows by the Michigan Tech Sledheads, another student org, in Visitor Parking Lot 27 and a performance of circus troupe FLIP Fabrique’s “Blizzard” at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts.
Scan the full list of events, meet the royalty candidates and get a full listing of snow statue winners when they are released Thursday, Feb. 8, on Michigan Tech’s Winter Carnival website.
The theme, Dlugos said, is pure Michigan Tech. “Tech is the outdoors,” he said. “As students, we get to experience the outdoor culture of the Keweenaw — and that will come out in all the Carnival activities, including statues and skits. We’re going to see a lot of interpretations of nature. I’m excited for it.”
What he’s not getting overexcited about is the weather.
Throughout Winter Carnival history, organizers and participants have contended with subzero temperatures, whiteout blizzards, rain and an array of other less-than-ideal conditions for contests waged on snow and ice.
While the Keweenaw received more than 60 inches of snow in January, unseasonably warm and dry conditions have melted most of the accumulation. Blue Key is coordinating with Michigan Tech Facilities Management and reaching out to community members for snow contributions from fields, vacant land and everywhere folks are willing to have their white stuff hauled away. Monthlong statue builders have lost weeks of construction work on their creations, and both they and one-night sculptors will likely focus on intricate details rather than size for their statues.
Warm temperatures have also affected the broomball competition. Games have been suspended due to rink conditions, but organizers are hoping the ice will hold for the traditional Broomball All-Stars game from 9-11 p.m. during Wednesday's All-Nighter.
“We're rolling with the punches,” said Dlugos. “There’s only so many things you can control and the weather isn’t one of them. Most events can go on with minimal snow.”
Dlugos’ pragmatic, philosophical approach is in keeping with the Husky spirit of tenacity and reinforced by confidence that snow or shine, the plethora of plans and processes required to pull off Carnival will come together to create a fun campus and community event.
In other words, the great outdoors will still be great and the success of Winter Carnival isn’t dependent on a thermometer.
“Winter Carnival is about forming new friendships. It’s a celebration that caters to alumni and the Keweenaw community. But it’s especially important for students, because we need a break!”
This is Dlugos’ second year leading Winter Carnival. That’s a rarity. One year usually feels sufficient for most Blue Key presidents. It’s a huge job on top of their studies and other commitments.
“I was thrilled when I heard that Joe was interested in a second year as president,” said Laura Bulleit, Michigan Tech’s vice president of student affairs. Bulleit and Heather Sander, assistant to Tech’s chief financial officer and senior vice president for administration, have co-advised Blue Key since 2015.
“Turnover is inherent in student organizations and it always poses a challenge for continuity. When we have members who serve on the executive board (president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and alumni and member outreach) for two consecutive years, it really helps for a smoother transition from year to year and allows that officer to focus on improving the organization. Joe has definitely been able to do that this year,” said Bulleit.
Husky Spirit Burns Brightly
Statues aren’t the only thing specifically constructed for Winter Carnival celebrations. Blue Key commissioned fire cages from a mechanical engineering technology (MET) Senior Design team to offer light and warmth on campus during festivities. “The fire cages are beautiful and highlight the creativity and technical skills of our students! Plus, it was a fantastic collaboration between Blue Key and the design team,” said Laura Bulleit, Blue Key co-advisor. Design team members are manufacturing and mechanical engineering technology (MMET) majors Teresa Hoving, Nick Rees and Nathaniel Eastman. Their advisors are MMET Professor and Chair John Irwin and Laboratory Operations Supervisor Scott Meneguzzo.
Dlugos, an environmental engineering major who graduates this spring, will start his career at G2 Consulting conducting geotechnical analyses for solar arrays. With a bright future awaiting, helping to build a strong foundation for Blue Key and future Winter Carnivals is currently top of mind.
“Service has always been important to me. It’s enjoyable and I’m always looking at how many people I can impact,” said Dlugos, a former Eagle Scout, who noted that “Serving, I Live,” is Blue Key’s national motto.
“I think a lot about the difference between leadership and experience. This is my third year in Blue Key. The first year, I was statue chairman. I think about where our experience is going — we don’t want to pass a torch that’s dimly lit,” Dlugos said. “The people who are dedicated to this Tech tradition will stick around longer. This year, I wanted to make sure I got other people involved, delegating responsibilities and empowering them. My phone number will always be available to Blue Key, but I want them to feel confident in their abilities to know what’s going on and carry on.”
Dlugos said he and other repeat Blue Key members also worked this year to boost organization morale with membership activities that aren’t related to organizing Winter Carnival. They’re hoping to resurrect Blue Key’s once-traditional post-Carnival party, where they can kick back and celebrate their success — before planning starts for next year.
Bulleit said what she most admires about the Blue Key members who make Winter Carnival possible is their ability to handle what becomes equivalent to a full-time job as each February approaches. “The students have to maintain their academics, other activities and sometimes even jobs while working on Winter Carnival,” she said. “The students in Blue Key, especially members of the executive board and the committee chairs, have the skills that employers are looking for. They are task-oriented, but are also excellent communicators who work well on a team.”
“The thing I love the most about advising Blue Key is absolutely the students! Every year, they impress me with their leadership abilities, their creativity and their professionalism. Winter Carnival is not an easy event to plan and organize. It requires students who are good communicators and have the ability to motivate their peers.”
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.