We’re a strange little tribe here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, aren’t we?
That observation came through to me clearly Wednesday night as I wandered the campus of Michigan Tech in Houghton. The university’s enrollment is about 6000, and I’d guess at least 3000 of them were outside, bundled up but smiling, well into the early morning hours.
It was all part of Tech’s Winter Carnival. The temperature? Eighteen degrees, with light but steady snow falling, and yet the campus was crawling with revellers.
Some observers might wonder, “What the hell is wrong with those people?”
I would have liked to ask that question, or something like it, of a blonde coed who was standing amid a crowd and watching a broomball game at the festival. For the uninitiated, broomball is like hockey except 1) the rink is tiny 2) the players use little brooms and big nerf balls instead of hockey sticks and hard pucks 3) the players scramble awkwardly around the rink in shoes rather than skates, and 4) the goalie (usually a large guy) kneels in front of his tiny goal rather than stands.
The game ain’t pretty but it’s fun.
Anyway, the blonde student stood there alone in the crowd, with a subtle smile on her face and talking to no one, for forty-five minutes, and she actually seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the experience. In eighteen degree weather with snow pelting her!
I don’t know, maybe she had a boyfriend out on the ice, but still. There’s something going on out there that only those in the U.P. tribe (and maybe their brethren in Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas) can understand.
Other images from this strange but exhilirating snowy festival:
High-spirited students lining up patiently to play minigolf on a makeshift, icy course that rewarded luck rather than skill.
Two girls, away from the lights and fanfare, sharing a teeter-totter and a conversation as part of a Cystic Fibrosis fundraiser. They and their friends see-sawed for thirty-six hours straight, day and night. I stopped by twice with donations. Couldn’t help it.
Students selling hot chocolate for fifty cents and “flaming” hot chocolate for a dollar. The “flaming” hot chocolate contained chili peppers.
One student giving away bowls of chili. Free. No idea where the food came from.
Maybe a hundred students, arms in the air, dancing wildly in the snow to the deafening music that came out of an enormous boombox made of ice. Had to be at least ten feet tall. The music reverberated throughout the campus.
And of course, there were the dozens of snow sculptures, all under feverish construction by student groups, armed with axes, hammers and chisels. They had until 8 a.m.Thursday to finish their works of art in the campuswide competition.
Like I said, we’re a strange little tribe.
I suspect folks in Florida and California, so proud of their year-round warmth and sparkling beaches, wouldn’t get it. But that’s the beauty of it, isn’t it? It takes a strange and special kind of person–or 3000 of them–to appreciate a party in the dark, in the snow, in the cold.