by Daniel McCabe
Tomorrow will be a day for party hats and insulated boots. McGill's celebration of its 175th anniversary is officially under way and the year-long event's first major activity--the Winter Carnival--begins tomorrow at noon.
The carnival will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the snow and ice replica of the Roman pantheon on the lower campus.
"The speeches will be short," promises McGill 175 coordinator Keith Gallop. "We want to get to the games, food and music as soon as we can." Principal Bernard Shapiro has asked all department and unit heads to allow staff not directly involved in teaching courses tomorrow to take part in carnival activities.
The University officially kicked off its 175th birthday party today at a news conference introducing the event's honorary co-chairs. Official languages commissioner Victor Goldbloom (BSc'44, MD'45, GDipMed'50), jazz pianist Oliver Jones (DMus'95) and astronaut and McGill graduate student Julie Payette (BEng'86) will preside at various events throughout the year.
A small-scale version of a statue of James McGill was also displayed at the press conference. The real statue--a lifesize reproduction of the University's founder--will be unveiled in the autumn near McGill's Roddick Gates entrance.
The focus for McGill 175 activities for the moment is the Winter Carnival and much of the outdoor activity will centre around architecture professor Pieter Sijpkes's snow and ice pantheon. Although it has shrunk a little in the recent rainy weather, the building is otherwise unaffected, says Sijpkes. "We're hanging in there. The warm spell hasn't helped of course, but we planned for this sort of thing. The structure is especially massive. Its thermal mass was designed to outlast this sort of thaw."
Sevag Yeghoyan, a student representative on the Board of Governors, has been involved in helping to organize the student events at the carnival. "An occasion like this is really rare. Students are usually here for three or four years and they never have the chance to celebrate the University in this way."
According to Yeghoyan, the lower campus will play host to a number of activities tomorrow involving students, faculty and staff, including snow volleyball ("It's less painful to fall into the snow after a hard shot, than it is to smash into a gym floor," notes Yeghoyan), sled races, three-legged snowshoe races and tug-of-war competitions. The pantheon will also feature a food court with barbecued hot dogs, hamburgers and vegetarian fare, as well as crepes, hot chocolate and beer. Music will be playing all afternoon and the McGill Improv comedy troupe will perform outside the pantheon at 2:30 pm. The Redpath Museum will be open if carnival-goers need to warm up for a spell.
Anyone who wishes to carry on celebrating into the evening has two options. The Students' Society of McGill University will be hosting a Four Floors Party at the University Centre on McTavish street.
A concert by the McGill Jazz Ensemble I begins at 8 pm in the Faculty of Music's Pollack Hall in the Strathcona Music Building at 555 Sherbrooke. The acclaimed student group will perform under the direction of Professor Gordon Foote. Guest vocalist Paulette Maurice will accompany the ensemble. Tickets are free for the show, but they are being offered on a first come, first served basis.