Thurtene Carnival: Magic, mirth and mystery

Community celebration slated for April 15-17

With the theme “Celebrate the Magic of Community,” the 2011 Thurtene Carnival will transform Washington University’s North Brookings parking lot into a vista of thrilling rides and dramatic facades.

The carnival will be from 4-8 p.m. Friday, April 15, and from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and 17. Admission is free, though tickets must be purchased for rides and some plays.

Thurtene, the oldest and largest student-run carnival in the United States, is presented annually by Washington University’s Thurtene Junior Honorary — 13 juniors responsible for continuing a tradition of community and philanthropy that has been part of campus life for more than 100 years.

Michelle Vivian, a junior majoring in psychology in Arts & Sciences, is co-chair of public relations for this year’s carnival. She said that the theme of community carries through the event, including the selection of nonprofit organization The Belle Center as recipient of all Thurtene proceeds and donations made at events leading up to the carnival.

“The Belle Center helps children with developmental delays and disabilities succeed in school and as part of their community,” she says, citing the organization’s sibling workshops as one example of the many community-based programs The Belle Center offers.

A broader spectrum of the university community is represented at Thurtene this year.

“We wanted this year’s carnival to include more non-Greek students,” says David Sternheim, the other public relations co-chair. “We have more than 20 student groups sponsoring booths — that’s more non-Greek groups than ever before.”

Sternheim — a junior biology major in Arts & Sciences focusing on neuroscience — says the booths’ attractions will include both traditional carnival-type games of skill, like shooting basketballs and bobbing for apples, as well as cultural games.

Food available for purchase at Thurtene will run the gamut from popcorn and cotton candy to hot dogs, burgers and funnel cakes, as well as a perennial Thurtene favorite — a booth where carnival goers can deep-fry their food of choice.

“I’ve seen some pretty interesting things deep-fried over the years,” Sternheim says.

For those concerned about what they eat not agreeing with some of the more exciting rides, Thurtene offers many other attractions. The six Washington University Greek organizations are now putting the finishing touches on their “facades” — two-story, movie-set style scenes that will transport St. Louisans to . . . well, they can’t say yet.

“The facade themes are closely guarded secrets until the carnival opens,” Sternheim says.

What’s not a mystery is that when visitors enter the facades, they will experience well-rehearsed and choreographed dances, theater, musical performances and comedy skits. The carnival also will feature a stage for community performing arts groups.

Sternheim estimates that attendance could range from 80,000 to 120,000 people, depending on the biggest mystery of all — the weather.

“Right now the forecast looks good for that weekend, but we have our fingers crossed,” Sternheim says.

The carnival will conclude with the presentation of the Buckley Award for the best facade construction as well as awards for best production, best food and best game booth.

The group that makes the highest donation to The Belle Center will be awarded the Chancellor’s Charity Cup, and the group judged to have the best overall carnival participation will receive the Burmeister Cup.

“We’re very excited for the Washington University community and the general community to come out and see how much fun we can have together,” Vivian says.

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