Lake Superior State University’s maintenance department and student volunteers are putting the finishing touch to a guest of honor for LSSU’s time-honored tradition of welcoming spring — it’s annual snowman burning. Students and the community will burn a 14-foot paper snowman effigy at high noon on Friday, March 18, just north of the Walker Cisler Center on LSSU’s campus.
The reigning Mrs. Michigan Captivating, Arianne Davis, who is also head athletic trainer for NCAA Division II sports at LSSU, will apply the torch to the snowman this year.
Lake State’s first spring snowman burning was held in March 1971 by a campus club called the Unicorn Hunters. The ceremony typically happens the Friday closest to the arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere, which this year happens at 11:30 p.m. EDT on March 19.
The ceremony takes its inspiration from a German festival to welcome spring. Some people contend that smoke from the conflagration wards off blizzards and ushers in spring-like weather.
Students and employees of the university’s maintenance department construct the snowman mostly from paper destined for the recycling bin, along with a wood and wire frame. The snowmen are husky and stand 10-14 feet.
LSSU’s snowmen have taken on many shapes over the years. During the 1970s, when women’s liberation was a news issue, a ‘snow person’ was burned. In the 1980s, when clones and ‘cloning’ were first in the news, a ‘snow clone’ was torched. The only time a burn was cancelled was in 1992, when the campus environmental awareness club objected to burning material intended for recycling.
Poetry has been featured at many snowman burnings through the years. LSSU students, employees, and community members are encouraged to write and read spring-related doggerel as the torch is applied to the paper snowman. Usually, a master of ceremonies welcomes the crowd and gives a history of the activity.
From introduction to conclusion, the ceremony lasts approximately 20 minutes.
Run a Web search on “LSSU snowman history” to read about ceremony’s 45-year history. Follow LSSU Snowman Burning on Facebook for updates and to submit springtime poetry.