As early as the 1940s, when Keene State College was still the Keene Teachers College, The month of January was home to many winter activities on campus.3

The early years of the college gave birth to the Winter Carnival, which is still celebrated but is a little different than the original. The Winter Carnival was previously held in mid to late January and included activities such as a snow sculpting competition, crowning a Winter Carnival Queen and a skating show.

In 1963, the first-year class won the snow sculpting competition with their piece called “Rhapsody,” which included a mad pianist at a grand piano. After the contest was judged, the winning class was presented a trophy by the newly crowned Queen at the Winter Carnival Ball.

The Winter Carnival had many Queens crowned over the years the pageant was held. In 1956, the winner was chosen by four “prominent citizens” at the time, Mayor Alfred Dennis, Motor Vehicle Inspector Kenneth Lysitt, Mr. McLockland and Mrs. Irene Landers. Each class presented several candidates, but the judges, after deliberation over tea in the Blake House, decided to award the crown to senior Barbara Rogers. In 1963, first-year Cinny Read, from Goffstown N.H., won the title of Winter Carnival Queen. She was crowned by Virginia Richards, the Queen from the previous year. 1

A skating show was featured at the 1955 Winter Carnival. It was held on an ice rink created by flooding the area of the quad between Huntress and Fiske and allowing it to freeze several times. The show opened with a performance was opened by sophomore Chris Hayes, who skated to the composition “Stardust.” The show also included two comedic partnered dances; one by Norm Barrows and Bucky Steembergen and the other by Elaine Winn and Roger Sampson. There was also a group number, performed by Connie Stahl, Pat Gould, Sandy Lane, Sylvia Orrill, Mary Marcotte and Sandi Le Heurcux.

Later on, in 1963, a slightly more permanent ice rink was created on the quad for general student use as well as use by the ice hockey team. Theta and Alpha fraternity members Jeff Stevens and Joel Treffrey built and maintained the rink with $100 in funding from the student council for the base and a fire hose and nozzle donated by the Keene Fire Department.

Although the Winter Carnival was the centerpiece of winter life at the college, there were many other events and activities that were celebrated. One of those events was a New Year’s Dance held in  January of 1953. The dance was hosted by the Women’s Service Club, led by their president Jane Kingsbury. It was held in the gym, decorated in green and white streamers and balloons, with music provided by the orchestra. There was also the annual formal of Kappa Delta Phi, which was titled “Winter Shadows” in 1956, it featured music by Bob Batchelder and his orchestra and was also held in the Spaulding Gymnasium.2

Winter in Keene wasn’t just filled with carnivals and parties. The ski team, which is still a proud part of the college, held its first meeting as part of the Outing Club on Jan. 29, 1955. The Keene Teachers Ski Team was a member of the New England Intercollegiate Ski Conference, with schools such as Brown, Tufts, Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern, Princeton and more. The team planned on participating in six meets over the winter season, with its first meet scheduled for Jan. 29 at Cranmore Mountain. The Ski Team really took hold on campus, and in 1962 the “KTC ski squad” offered a two-day ski clinic for high schoolers in the area. A grand total of 112 teenage students turned out for the event and participated in a giant slalom race and learned basic cross-country technique. The next year, the Ski Team and the Women’s Athletic Association co-sponsored a Ski Swap. At the swap, skiers could sell their outgrown ski equipment, such as boots, poles, skis, and others could come and purchase the used equipment for a bargain.

Abbygail Vasas can be contacted at avasas@kscequinox.com