One of several annual traditions at Lake Superior State University, snowman burning takes place every March or or near the first day of spring. Students, townsfolk and alumni all gather around a 12-foot-tall snowman on campus and light it on fire.
Derived from a German tradition - the Rose Sunday Festival - in which the mayor of a town burns a snowman to declare an end to winter, the snowmen burned on the LSSU campus are usually built out of recycled paper, wood and wire. Sometimes, the snowmen are just the capstone of a long day of celebration that can includes a parade, poetry readings, and more.
Started in 1971 by the Unicorn Hunters, a campus club, the annual snowman burning has often been built around political issues. In 2009, the snowman represented capitalist greed. In the 1970s, during women’s liberation, the snowman was replaced with a “snow person.” In the 1980s, a “snow clone” was burned to riff off cloning in the news. During the Iran hostage crisis, the Unicorn Hunters burned a Snow Ayatollah Khomeni.
The tradition, like most, is not without controversy. In 1992, the event was called off after the Environmental Awareness Club staged a series of protests. The tradition, though, was resumed the next year.