Thurtene, the oldest student-run carnival in the United States, returns this weekend to Washington University in St. Louis with a new attraction: a replica Busch Stadium, complete with turf, outfielders and pennants. This stadium, however, plays host not to Major League Baseball players but tomorrow’s whiffle ball champions.
Children are invited to take a whack off the tee and wait for the roar of the crowd — in this case the members of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and Pi Beta Phi sorority who built the stadium.
“We wanted to do an activity for kids, and a lot of us are huge baseball fans,” said senior Alex Altieri of Alpha Epsilon Pi. “Kids will be able to come in here and hit a home run and feel as if they are at the stadium.”
Thurtene kicks off Friday, April 15, and runs through Sunday, April 17. Thousands of students, alumni and employees are expected to attend, as well as members of the St. Louis community.
In addition to classic carnival rides, highlights include a visit from Team Fredbird of the St. Louis Cardinals, a cappella performances and mini golf. Members of Alpha Chi Sigma, the chemistry fraternity, will demonstrate how to make Dippin’ Dots from liquid nitrogen. And the famous Zeta Beta Tau fry booth is back. Carnival goers can try one of the booth’s fried candy bars or bring any food they would like dunk into a hot vat of oil.
This 80-year old annual Washington University tradition is organized by the 13 juniors of Thurtene Honorary.
This year’s community partner is Ready Readers, a leading local nonprofit that inspires children to love books. Ready Readers volunteers read to thousands of low-income preschool students in school every week. The organization also gives students new books to take home.
The fraternities and sororities who build facades also support local charities. This year, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Pi Beta Phi hope to raise $7,000 for Operation Food Search, which feeds hungry St. Louisans.
Typically, facades are four-sided buildings in which students stage wacky productions. But the replica stadium is a first. Altieri said the fraternity decided to try something new this year because plays take a lot of time to write and rehearse and full facades cost a lot to build, money Altieri would rather give to charity.
Another reason: the brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi love whiffle ball. On any given afternoon, they gather for a pick-up game in the backyard of their apartment.
“It’s a good way to spend time with friends,” said Altieri, a fan of the New York Mets. “And honestly, at this point, when the real world is coming in fast, it makes you feel a little younger again.”