The Wisconsin Union Directorate and Hoofers will kick off their annual Winter Carnival on Monday. The event has been a long-time favorite for University of Wisconsin-Madison students and the local community for decades.
“[The Winter Carnival] is and has always been a celebration of Wisconsinites’ love for our natural resources,” Outdoor UW Director David Elsmo said in an interview with The Daily Cardinal. “It is an opportunity for our campus community to showcase the things we love about our winters.”
At the carnival, students can participate in night time snowshoeing, 3D printing of snowflakes and ice climbing. After a hiatus in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions, Lady Liberty will also be making her way back to the shores of Lake Mendota.
Mills Botham, the program adviser and manager of Outdoor UW Sailing, spoke with the Cardinal about the iconic tradition.
“The Lady Liberty tradition originated in 1979 with Leon Varjian and Jim Mallon. They, along with other members of their newly founded Pail and Shovel Party student group, created the original statue out of paper mâché in secret and brought it out onto Lake Mendota early on Feb. 23, 1979 as a surprise for the student body,” Botham said. “What originated as a very creative prank has become symbolic of UW-Madison and has remained an excellent tradition of students working together with staff to bring some joy to our frigid Wisconsin winters.”
According to Botham, the original iteration of Lady Liberty was destroyed by an arsonist a few days after its creation. Varjian and Mallon did attempt to rebuild a second statue out of styrofoam blocks.
“Despite best efforts at preservation and restoration, the Styrofoam blocks that composed the second statue deteriorated over the years,” he explained.
In 2018, Botham worked alongside his student colleagues to bring an inflatable Lady Liberty to campus 40 years after the original was built.
“We determined that an inflatable option would likely be best and commissioned Landmark Creations in Minneapolis to craft it,” said Botham. “The company’s excellent craftsmanship and the teamwork of the many people involved in bringing Lady Liberty back to Lake Mendota were on display for the first time on Feb. 1, 2019, as part of the Wisconsin Union’s Winter Carnival, and again in 2020.”
Students and the local Madison community are invited to enjoy a variety of seasonal fun at the 2022 Winter Carnival, with the festivities running from Feb. 7 to Feb. 12. A full schedule of events can be found at the Wisconsin Union website.