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SUNY Potsdam throws its own Winterfest to warm up returning students

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POTSDAM — When classes begin next week, SUNY Potsdam students will receive a warm welcome.

The school will play host to Winterfest, a bevy of events to engage students in campus activities and encourage them to mingle with each other and the surrounding community.

“We started it to jump-start the spring semester as kind of a welcome back for students,” said Ruth A. Policella, director of campus life. “We do a comprehensive welcome weekend in the fall, but had nothing similar for students in the spring.”

Winterfests are a tradition in north country communities such as Colton, Carthage and Canton, and SUNY Potsdam has adopted that tradition.

Beginning Jan. 24, students will have the opportunity to dance, practice yoga, listen to a slam poet perform, play poker, sing around a bonfire and sink canoes in Maxcy Hall.

The series of events started seven years ago. A lot of the components that are considered part of Winterfest existed before the Office of Campus Life organized them, Ms. Policella said.

“Our office is in a coordination role,” she said. “We try to bring the clubs and offices together.”

One of the more popular events, the Maxcy Canoe Swamp, falls on Jan. 30.

“This canoe swamp program; basically, we get boats, canoes, we put them in the Maxcy pool. You have to fill your opponents’ boats with water to sink them,” Ms. Policella said.

The school’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance also falls under the Winterfest umbrella. Because students are in classes during the holiday, SUNY Potsdam honors Mr. King’s memory by holding a day of volunteerism and community service.

“This time of year, students have a lot of time; their classes aren’t busy,” Ms. Policella said. “There weren’t a lot of activities happening in this time frame; it kind of filled a good void.”

Ms. Policella said Winterfest is an important way to help students get acclimated to their north country environs.

“I think it is really important for the campus and community,” she said. “I do think this is kind of a celebration of where we are regionally. In the last couple of years, we had some snow events and there wasn’t any snow; hopefully, the weather cooperates this year.”

Snow-based activities include a night ski trip to Titus Mountain, a cross-country ski trip and ‘Snoga,’ in which participants will practice yoga on the school’s quad.

“It is — literally — yoga in the snow, so it is fun,” Ms. Policella said. “You get dressed really warm, you go out; it is quite beautiful. The Counseling Center puts that on.”

Most of the events are open to the whole community.

On Feb. 2, during the final weekend of Winterfest, the school hosts the Snow Ball, a social dinner and dance for students.

“For us, that is the culminating event,” Ms. Policella said. “It is a semiformal dance. We get anywhere from 800 to 900 students who attend it.”

Winterfest events will run until Feb. 3, when the celebration will culminate in the annual Bear Pride Night ahead of women’s basketball and men’s hockey and basketball games.

A partial list of Winterfest events:

Jan. 24

A cappella bonfire, 8 p.m., Marshall Park.

Jan. 25

Night ski trip to Titus Mountain, 4 p.m., Venture Outdoors.

The Raspberry Brothers roast “Twilight,” 8 p.m., Barrington Student Union multipurpose room.

Jan. 26

Texas Hold ’em tournament, time to be announced, Barrington Student Union multipurpose room.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service; closing program at 6 p.m., Knowles Conference Center.

Speed dating, 10 p.m., Barrington Student Union multipurpose room.

Jan. 27

Kickboxing with Tom Sokol, 2 p.m., Maxcy Dance Studio.

Zumba workshop, 4 p.m., Maxcy Dance Studio.

Jan. 28

Cross-country ski outing, 4 p.m., Venture Outdoors.

Jan. 29

Snoga, 7 p.m.; meet in Barrington Student Union lobby.

Jan. 30

Canoe Swamp, 7:30 p.m., Maxcy Hall pool.

Jan. 31

The Evasons (live music), 9 p.m., Dunn Theater.

Feb. 1

George Watsky (slam poet) 8 p.m., Dunn Theater.

Feb. 2

Snow Ball dinner, 7 p.m., Thatcher Hall, second floor.

Snow Ball Dance, 9 p.m., Barrington Student Union multipurpose room.

Feb. 3

Bear Pride Night, 6 p.m., Maxcy Hall.

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