Thurtene, oldest student-run carnival in U.S., begins April 20 on Danforth Campus

Event aims to go 'Around the World in Thurtene Days'

Hundreds of students at Washington University in St. Louis are working together to host the oldest and largest student-run carnival in the United States. Thurtene Carnival will take place near the university’s Danforth Campus, at the intersection of Skinker Boulevard and Forest Park Parkway Friday through Sunday, April 20-22.

The annual event typically attracts more than 80,000 people over the course of the weekend. Like many carnivals, Thurtene offers standard fare — amusement rides, game booths and fun food. But, Thurtene Carnival is different in that students present entertaining, family-friendly theatrical productions.

The grassy median along Brookings Drive — extending from the base of Brookings Hall to Skinker Boulevard — will be filled with “movie-set” structures known as “facades.” Students design and build these temporary structures and write their own scripts, competing for awards, such as “best production,” “best spirit” or “best construction.”

The storylines are kept strictly confidential until carnival time. However, past facades have ranged from castles and circus tents to barns and Egyptian crypts.

All the plays are acted simultaneously, seven or eight times per day, with bench seating for carnival-goers. Upon entering the facades, visitors will experience well-rehearsed plays, musical performances and comedy skits.

WUSTL students will present well-rehearsed plays, musical acts and comedy skits for Thurtene attendees. (Credit: Jerry Naunheim Jr.)

Carnival hours are 4-8 p.m. Friday, April 20, and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22.

Admission is free, though tickets must be purchased for rides and some plays at the carnival with cash only. (There will be ATMs on-site.)

Ride tickets are $1 each or 20 tickets for $17.

Tickets can be pre-ordered at discounted rates via or through the group’s Facebook page at

Food available for purchase runs the gamut — from popcorn, cotton candy, funnel cakes and ice cream to hot dogs, burgers, barbecue and pizza. Noodles & Company is sponsoring an eating contest.

Student and community musical groups are performing all day Saturday and Sunday. Visitors can expect to see a broad variety of dance styles (swing, tango and hula) and hear music ranging from a cappella to gospel to folk.

This year’s theme is “Around the World in Thurtene Days.”

“Our theme aims to bridge both the Washington University and St. Louis communities,” says Jonathan Jackson, Thurtene public relations chair and a junior in Arts & Sciences.

“The carnival is held during Washington University alumni weekend and draws both old and new friends. It combines student groups in the university community, sharing diverse and unique talents, as well as citizens and businesses in St. Louis.”

The carnival is organized each year by WUSTL’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. The first carnival was held May 9, 1907.

Carnival proceeds this year benefit the Guardian Angels Settlement Association. Through social services programs, a developmental childcare program and community outreach, the association works to improve the lives of those struggling with poverty.

“Being chosen as the charity for ThurtenE Carnival felt like winning the lottery,” says Gloria Sewell, director of childcare services for the association. “We were all so excited!”

Limited carnival parking is available near Kemper Art Museum at Hoyt Drive and Forsyth Boulevard and also in the Danforth University Center underground parking garage at Wallace Drive and Forsyth Boulevard. Carnival-goers also are encouraged to ride the MetroLink; a station is across the street at Skinker Boulevard and Forest Park Parkway.

Coca-Cola is sponsoring this year’s Thurtene Carnival.

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