Redefining the Classroom

Snowman Burning ceremony is TODAY at NOON

Posted: March 20th, 2014

CALM BEFORE BURN – Steve Gregory (l) and David Drzewiecki, both with Lake Superior State University's physical plant department, eye a snowman effigy LSSU will burn at noon, March 21, in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Dubbed "Mr. Polar Vortex," the 12-foot snowman was to be torched on March 20 until high winds and inclement weather delayed the ceremony 24 hours. LSSU has been welcoming the first day of spring with the ceremonial burning of a snowman since 1971. (LSSU/Tasha Cook). (LSSU/Tasha Cook)

A print-resolution photo that runs with this caption can be found by clicking here.

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Members of Lake Superior State University’s maintenance department and student volunteers are working this week on the main attraction for the university’s time-honored tradition of welcoming spring. At high noon on Friday, March 21, LSSU will mark the first day of the spring season by burning a massive paper snowman, as it has done for more than 40 years.

Spring officially arrives in the Northern Hemisphere at 12:57 p.m. EDT on March 20.

The first spring snowman burning was held in March 1971 by a former campus club called the Unicorn Hunters.

Traditionally, the ceremony has been held on the first day of spring to bid good-bye to winter and welcome to spring.

The ceremony takes its inspiration from the Rose Sunday Festival in Weinheim-en-der-Bergstrasse, Germany. In the festival, a parade passes through town to a central location, where the mayor makes a proposal to the town’s children: If the children are good, study, obey their parents and work hard, he will order the (straw) snowman to be burned, and spring will officially arrive. After the children yell their approval and make their promise, the snowman is burned.

Some people contend that smoke from the conflagration wards off blizzards and ushers in spring-like weather. The Unicorn Hunters validated this theory by the second or third year of the event. At that time, after the snowman was burned, a blizzard passed through the Eastern Upper Peninsula and Northern Lower Peninsula but missed Sault Ste. Marie.

Students and employees of the university’s maintenance department construct the snowman mostly from paper destined for the recycling bin, along with a wood and wire frame. The snowmen are husky and stand 10-12 feet.

Thursday's ceremony will mark a transition of sorts when current LSSU president Tony McLain hands off the torch to light the snowman to Thomas Pleger, who becomes LSSU's eight president in July.

From introduction to conclusion, the ceremony lasts approximately 20 minutes.

Click here to read about snowman burning's history.


CONTACTS: Tom Pink, e-mail, 906/635-2315; John Shibley, e-mail, 635-2314.