Lake Superior State University’s maintenance department and student volunteers are working this week on the main attraction for the university’s time-honored tradition of welcoming spring. At high noon on Monday, March 23, LSSU will welcome spring by burning a massive snowman effigy, as it has done for almost five decades.
This year’s 45th annual ceremony has expanded to include a “funeral” march through campus, mock trial and sentencing, and seasonal readings by LSSU’s English Club.
The parade starts at 11 a.m. in front of the university’s maintenance building on Meridian St. and winds north across W. Easterday Ave. onto campus for a lap that ends on the north plaza of LSSU’s Walker Cisler Center. The precession will be escorted by LSSU’s campus safety office and vehicles from the fire science program, along with cruisers from Sault police, Michigan State Police, and Chippewa County Sheriff’s Dept., with possible appearances by other agencies.
Remarks at 11:30 a.m. by LSSU President Tom Pleger and Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Tony Bosbous will be followed by readings presented by creative writing students. Chippewa County Prosecutor Dennis McShane and Michigan 91st District Court Judge Elizabeth Church will pronounce judgment and sentence at 11:45 a.m. for the snowman to burn at noon. Complimentary daffodils and hot dogs are available to all during the event.
The first spring snowman burning was held in March 1971 by a former campus club called the Unicorn Hunters. Traditionally, the ceremony has been held on the first day of spring to bid good-bye to winter and welcome to spring, and takes its inspiration from the Rose Sunday Festival in Weinheim-en-der-Bergstrasse, Germany. In the festival, a parade passes through town to a central location, where the mayor makes a proposal to the town’s children: If the children are good, study, obey their parents and work hard, he will order the (straw) snowman to be burned, and spring will officially arrive. After the children yell their approval and make their promise, the snowman is burned.
Some people contend that smoke from the conflagration wards off blizzards and ushers in spring-like weather. The Unicorn Hunters validated this theory by the second or third year of the event. At that time, after the snowman was burned, a blizzard passed through the Eastern Upper Peninsula and Northern Lower Peninsula but missed Sault Ste. Marie.
Run a web search on “LSSU snowman history” to read more about the tradition at Michigan’s smallest public university.