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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

Winter Carnival Brings Big Names

In addition to the ice show, ski races and fireworks that have become synonymous with Winter Carnival, the Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) always presents unique entertainment that elevates the weekend from just a winter celebration to a campus-wide excuse to relax and mingle at the beginning of the spring semester.

To commemorate the 92nd annual Winter Carnival, MCAB’s Traditions Committee, which plans the weekend, organized unique entertainment in the form of comedian Jay Larson, who performs tonight, Feb. 12 at 9 p.m. in Wilson Hall, and DJ Clinton Sparks, who will be presiding over the Winter Ball festivities in the Nelson Recreation Center on Saturday, Jan. 14.

The twelve-person Traditions Committee participates in a similar selection process each year, but occasionally certain performers stand out as especially suitable for Winter Carnival.

“Every year we talk to our agent, James Anderson, who works for the College, and he gives us a list of names within our budget for the DJ and for the comedian,” Traditions Committee Co-Chair Caroline Brown ’15 said. “We receive that list and then we share and discuss it with our committee before either voting on it or going with the general consensus that is forming. Usually there are one or two names that really stand out as more popular than others so it’s really easy to choose.”

Though the Winter Carnival comedian almost always sells out the over 400-seat venue in Wilson Hall, this year’s performer, Jay Larson, carries even more name recognition than usual. Originally from Stoneham, Mass., Larson draws from his childhood experiences, time spent living in a condemned house in Venice, California and his outlandish imagination to provide a fresh exploration of the metaphysical and surreal worlds. After starting his standup career only about a decade ago – after flunking out of college in Los Angeles – Larson has achieved success through appearances on Tosh.0, The Late Late Show, The Smoking Gun Presents, Conan and his own half hour special on Comedy Central.

“I’m excited because our comedian this year is really famous,” Brown said. “We listened to a lot of his YouTube videos before choosing him, and he is really funny.”
The budget for the Winter Carnival is granted through the Student Government Association (SGA) Finance Committee, which distributes funding to each committee within MCAB based on statistics from previous years. Though ticket sales do contribute to each committee’s budget, it is a small percentage relative to the amount derived from the SGA.

The Winter Ball, which falls on Valentine’s Day this year, is featuring DJ Clinton Sparks, who has produced chart toppers with artists like Lady Gaga, Akon, T-Pain and Pitbull in addition to his personal work as host of the worldwide syndicated radio show ‘Get Familiar with Clinton Sparks,’ which first premiered in 2005. Nominated for a 2012 Album of the Year Grammy Award for Lady Gaga’s ‘Born this Way,’ Sparks began interviewing a wide range of artists as a correspondent for E! News in 2008 and was one of the first producers to show interest in Eminem before the rapper gained fame.

In addition to boasting an internationally known DJ, the Winter Ball also features an impressive spread of food — last year the event included sushi, limitless appetizers and a dessert bar — in addition to a beer garden for 21 and over.

“It’s fun to see everyone dressed up,” Traditions Committee Co-Chair Mary Richards ’15 said. “It’s probably one of the only times that is really more formal than the other events on campus. It’s really great to celebrate and have a day off.”

Sandwiched between the comedian and Winter Ball is the Friday, Feb. 13 concert by Cloud Nothings and Vacationer at 8 p.m. in Wilson Hall.

“We had open space within the Carnival schedule, so we asked the Concert Committee and they agreed to fill the spot,” Richards said.

Though planned by a different MCAB committee, this event goes through much the same vetting process as the entertainment chosen by the Traditions Committee, with a list of names presented by agent James Anderson. The Concert Committee’s decision is presented to the MCAB executive board, where the vote for this year’s bands was fairly unanimous.

The indie-punk rock sounds of Cloud Nothings began as a solo project by singer and guitarist Dylan Baldi in 2009 in his parents Cleveland, Ohio basement, but he soon added drummer Jayson Gerycz and bassist TJ Duke, and to date the band has released three albums and completed extensive American and European tours.
Vacationer, originally based out of Philadelphia and Brooklyn, only started performing their eclectic mix of Hawaiian Na-Hula and world music four years ago, but the band has gained a strong following.

Tickets to the performance are only $5 through the Box Office, or $8 at the door on show night.

Tickets to Jay Larson’s Thursday, Feb. 12 performance at Wilson Hall are $10 through the Box Office, and Winter Ball tickets are available now for $15 or at the door of Nelson Recreation Center for $20 on Saturday, Feb. 14. Winter Carnival packages are also available with or without a 2015 t-shirt through the Box Office.