Building excitement for Carnival 2009

Credit: Jessica Thurston | Art Editor Credit: Jessica Thurston | Art Editor Carnegie Mellon students roll up their sleeves and get dirty in preparation for this weekend. (credit: Celia Ludwinski | Assistant Photo Editor) Carnegie Mellon students roll up their sleeves and get dirty in preparation for this weekend. (credit: Celia Ludwinski | Assistant Photo Editor) Carnegie Mellon students roll up their sleeves and get dirty in preparation for this weekend. (credit: Kristen Severson | Photo Editor) Carnegie Mellon students roll up their sleeves and get dirty in preparation for this weekend. (credit: Kristen Severson | Photo Editor)

With Move-On behind us and Build Week upon us, the campus is once again gearing up for the biggest party event of the year: Spring Carnival.

Beginning officially on Thursday and lasting until Saturday evening, Carnival has two main attractions that draw current students in and bring alumni back: Booth and Buggy. For those who are confused, a booth is one of the structures built by various organizations and displayed in the Morewood Gardens parking lot, which becomes a temporary midway for the event. Each booth must conform to fire and safety regulations, be completely finished by the start of Carnival, and have some sort of game that festival-goers can participate in. Booths are made to be kid-friendly and are built around a different theme every year. This year’s theme is Epic Adventures.

But just because Build Week lasts only a few days, don’t think that groups wait until the last minute to start their work. In many cases, work for Booth begins long before Carnival decorations start springing up all over campus. Booth chairs have been meeting since fall to make sure the show runs perfectly.

“Everything takes a long time,” said Greta Michalczuk, a sophomore chemical and biomedical engineering double major and one of KGB’s booth chairs. “Everyone’s really gung-ho, and then you’re like, wait, how many weeks do we have until Move-On?”

In accordance with the overall theme, the KGB has centered their booth on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Jules Verne classic. They have designed their booth to resemble a massive bronze submarine locked in epic battle with a giant squid. The squid, Michalczuk explained, will also be an integral part of the booth’s game, which will involve a ring toss to subdue the creature as it threatens the craft.
Michalczuk was especially enthusiastic about the exterior of the booth. “You should be able to see a bronze submarine with a dock in front of it,” she noted, adding that the inside was also going to look impressive. “The ocean is going to be blacklights, with blacklight paint.”

KGB is an independent organization in competitive Booth. Many other groups around campus get into booth building and Carnival madness — Greek organizations most notably. The fraternities and sororities compete against each other, and each year attempt to place in the Booth competition.

At Alpha Chi Omega’s sorority house, the common room and lounge was filled with booth pieces, supplies, and decorations in the making. The newest sorority to come to Carnegie Mellon and a National Panhellenic sorority, Alpha Chi Omega was working hard, along with Delta Tau Delta, to make this year’s Carnival amazing.

Dina Machin, a chemical engineering major and Booth chair for the sorority, remarked that Booth had its ups and downs. She recalled “Home Depot runs — buying paint; we even got 29 gallons of paint in one trip.”

That particular trip was memorable, both because of the paint and because of the circumstance. With her posse of three people, Machin towed five carts full of lumber and paint through the store, laughing with friends and sisters as they contemplated how on Earth they were going to fit all of their supplies in their cars.

When asked what was one of the most memorable experiences of booth, Machin laughed. “Definitely papier-mâchéing at three in the morning,” she said.

One of her sisters, Arianna Golden, a first-year mechanical and biomedical engineering double major, also added that “trying to draw circles on plywood when it’s wet” is also pretty fun.

Alpha Chi Omega’s theme will be the Game of Life, and they have plans to erect a giant spinner on the top of their booth. While their booth will be only one story high, they anticipate the addition of the spinner on the top to bring the size of their booth up to two stories. The sisters were also working hard to create giant “peg people,” the player pieces from the Game of Life, to be used as decorations for their booth.

As fun as building booth has been, Machin remarked that it has also been a lot of work. “I wish Greek Sing was first semester and Booth second semester,” she commented, citing how Greek organizations have little time between the two events to prepare and get things ready for Carnival. Currently, the sisters have spent 20–25 hours a week on the project, which amounts to around four hours per person, per day. This coming week, she anticipated the number to go up to around 30 hours.

Apart from Booth, another form of entertainment that is coming up is Buggy, the other Spring Carnival tradition, which will be having its races this coming Friday. Buggy has long been an exciting complement to Booth. Students from a wide range of majors work together on different teams to design, build, and race the fastest cars possible. Usually, students involved in Buggy fall into three categories: pusher, driver, or mechanic.

Pushers run behind the buggy and propel it up hills, giving it enough momentum to keep going until the next pusher takes over. Different pushers handle different sections, or “hills,” of the racecourse. There is also a driver, the person who lies down inside the buggy, using inner steering to direct its motion. Mechanics are responsible for engineering and crafting the buggy to design specifications.

What is unique about Buggy is that practices are held on the course, which consists of Frew Street and a section of Margaret Morrison. However, as both of these streets are often populated by traffic during the day, Buggy teams must get their practices in before heavy traffic sets in. Usually, this occurs early in the morning.

Wade Gordon, a first-year mathematical sciences major, currently works as a mechanic for the Student Dormitory Council’s Buggy team. While the late nights sometimes wreak havoc with his sleep schedule, Gordon replied that he enjoys being part of the team.

“The whole thing’s a blast,” Gordon said. “It’s pretty hectic; we have to be out there almost every weekend. You can go down there and there’s always something to do. Weekend rolls are pretty intense: we’re out from 4 to 10 in the morning.”
With each team vying so competitively for a win, buggy designs are guarded with the utmost secrecy, often known only to the high-ranking officers in each group. But that doesn’t make the atmosphere in the organizations any less fun. Gordon noted that all you really have to do to be accepted is to come to practices and work hard.
Buggy races will be happening at 8 in the morning on
Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18. DVDs of the races will also be available for purchase from cmuTV.

In addition to Booth and Buggy, AB has also been advertising the bands coming to campus to perform at the celebration: The New Pornographers and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.

As the campus begins to throw itself into the Carnival season, the countdown to build, race day, and concerts is on. However, it’s good to remember to relax a little during this intense week.“The minute I start trying to win, that’s the minute no one wants to work with me any more,” Michalczuk stated. “I do Booth for fun.”

Machin and Gordon expressed similar sentiments. Machin ruefully stated that while she’d gotten a restful eight hours of sleep the previous night, it wasn’t likely that she’d been having that again anytime soon.

Gordon joked about his late nights as a mechanic, but said that that was what brought him closer to his teammates.

“It’s a real welcoming environment,” he recalled, smiling.

Geraldine Holmes, a Carnegie Mellon parent, voiced her appreciation of the intense student effort: “I think it’s a wonderfully original and creative outlet for the students of Carnegie Mellon University.”