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This year, the College will celebrate its 100th Winter Carnival. But was the first Winter Carnival really in 1923?
Behold, the chronological conundrum of the Winter Carnival Centennial. 

The Campus reported last year’s as the 99th, and Middlebury boasts our carnival as “the oldest student-run carnival in the nation, started in 1923.” So (aside from the fact that if the first were in 1923, the 100th would’ve been in 1922), this year’s must be the 100th.

…right?

In Special Collections, our Winter Carnival primary sources begin with a Winter Carnival Ball dance card, a program of activities, and a booklet with a schedule and remarks welcoming alumni to the “First Winter Carnival” – all from 1934. And given that the Mountain Club was formed in 1931, this date checks out.

However, when searching our digitized archives for the first mentions of a Middlebury Winter Carnival, a clue from a 1921 issue of The Campus appears:

Prompted by a desire to make the best of the recent fall of snow the Outing Club has planned a second of the inter-class winter carnivals introduced here last year for Saturday afternoon.
OUTDOOR CLASS MEET SATURDAY Outing Club plans events for carnival - will be represented at Vermont Tourney  Prompted by a desire to make the best of the recent fall of snow the Outing Club has planned a second of the inter-class winter carnivals introduced here last year for Saturday afternoon. Officers of the club looked over the Noble wood south of the College property and the level plain below it yesterday and as a result Saturday's games will probably be staged on this site which was the scene of last y
Article referencing a “second of the inter-class winter carnivals introduced here last year” from February 16, 1921 issue of The Campus.

It seems the Outing Club (the Mountain Club’s predecessor, founded in 1916) sponsored first inter-class Winter Sports Carnival in 1920! Though the spectacle was very different from our traditional sense of the Winter Carnival with no intercollegiate competitions, carnival ball, king and queen, or fireworks, the carnival would soon grow from these humble beginnings into the extravaganza we know today, thanks to the Mountain Club’s dedication to bringing winter activities to all. 

As for the hundredth anniversary, did we miss it? Was the true centennial back in 2020? Must we wait for another decade to pass? Or is 1923 the date to celebrate? As the keepers of College memories, we welcome you to visit Special Collections to dig through the College archives and unearth the truth on this, or any other Middlebury mystery!

No matter the year, we always welcome another wonderful Winter Carnival to build on our Midd traditions!