Between their Banished Words list (current list) and Snowman Burning Day, Lake Superior State University has established two long-standing traditions that few universities can compete with.
Get ready to run snowmen, we’re coming! March 19th is your fateful day.
Since 1971 LSSU has taken to burning a large snowman to mark the end of winter and celebrate the first day of spring. The tradition was started by a public relations legend, Bill Rabe. As someone in marketing and advertising, I hold Bill Rabe in high regards. Not long after being hired at LSSU in 1971 he started the Unicorn Hunters. Between the genius of him and a few colleagues they created both the Banished Words list, Snowman Burning day, and much more.
Standing up to 12-feet high the snowmen are typically made of wood and paper mache. Several activities have surrounded the annual burning: poetry reading, parades, and sometimes the snowman is centered around a political statement such as “corporate greed” for the 2009 burning. Like most things there was some negative feedback, which lead to it being canceled in 1992 for environmental concerns. Well, as expected, the community erupted demanding that it take place again. A great tradition must continue on.
“The Unicorn Hunters made the news often for activities and events including: the annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness, burning a snowman on the first day of spring, World Sauntering Day, International Stone-Skipping Tournament held annually on Mackinac Island, Unicorn Questing Season and Teacher Thank You Week”– LSSU
“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 said they 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 EUP but missed Sault Ste. Marie.” — LSSU
From banished words, snowman burning, outhouse racing, snow sculptures and so many others, the Upper Peninsula remains a place with great traditions.