ThurtenE Carnival diversifies attractions, focuses on St. Louis community outreach
Participants in this year’s ThurtenE Carnival are moving away from the construction of full facades and towards a diversification of philanthropic organizations in an effort to expand community engagement.
ThurtenE, the largest and oldest student-run carnival in the nation, has drawn large crowds from the community since its inception in the early 1900s. The name, nature and style of the carnival have shifted over time along with the growth of Washington University.
This year, organizers have noted a new trend amongst participating student groups, as more Greek life organizations have opted to construct half-facades over the traditional full facades. Typically, Greek organizations that choose to construct any sort of facade pair one sorority and one fraternity to work together.
Full facades stand at around 12-15 feet tall and feature live student performances that attract carnival goers in the hopes of raising funds for the groups’ chosen charities. Half-facades require less physical construction and offer the groups the ability to experiment with other fundraising techniques.
Three pairs of Greek organizations will be constructing full facades this year, compared to the five constructed last year and six or more in previous years. Although this means fewer student plays, organizers believe this shift will be an overall positive one.
“It isn’t detrimental to our carnival that we have fewer facades this year because not every family would go see all six plays if there were six full facades, but now that there are three there’s actually a pretty good chance they’ll see all of those plays,” ThurtenE public relations officer and junior Jackson Smith said. “Then there’s also kind of room to break up the day with the more interactive offerings that they haven’t seen.”
This year’s ThurtenE Honorary decided to emphasize the accessibility of the carnival to all student groups that might be interested in participating in the event or fundraising for a particular cause.
ThurtenE public relations officer and junior Abby Rickeman noted that by increasing the variety of the groups involved, the carnival might attract a larger population of community members.
“I think having more student groups and a more diverse spread and variety of groups will bring new ways to engage with people not just on Wash. U.’s campus but in the St. Louis community, and that’s a huge draw for people all over St. Louis,” Rickeman said.
Smaller groups that may be new to ThurtenE are also less likely to spend as much time and resources in construction, which may also play a role in the trend away from full facades—which require intensive setup and takedown.
This doesn’t, however, take away from the value of full facades, which Rickeman believes will remain a meaningful tradition.
“They’re cool things and they have groups get together to build them, and it’s basically like a small house,” Rickeman said. “It’s a cool tradition, but I think also having half-facades, it’s kind of a new tradition as well that we want to definitely promote.”
A diverse spread of student groups may mean more offerings to carnival goers, but it also allows for a more expansive and comprehensive scope of charity recipients from carnival revenues.
This year, the ThurtenE Honorary selected Ready Readers, a St. Louis based nonprofit that aims to inspire a love of reading and establish the foundational literacy skills of preschool age children from low-income families as they transition to Kindergarten.
Rickeman believes the pairing with Ready Readers will expand the reach of the carnival, which was a goal of this year’s honorary from the start.
“We want to reach out to new areas of St. Louis that haven’t participated or really come to the carnival,” Rickeman said. “I think Ready Readers is really a great resource for us in that aspect.”
Smith added that the overarching goal of Ready Readers is to foster intellectual curiosity amongst younger generations across St. Louis, a key step for progress in any community.
“That’s sort of the long-term cause for change,” Smith said. “A lot of it is just giving kids stuff to realize that reading is something that is really cool thing for them to be able to do.”
While the ThurtenE Honorary selects one organization as the ecipient of its resulting funds from the carnival, individual groups have the freedom to decide which causes are most meaningful to them.
Another group that’s looking to extend its reach further into the St. Louis community this year is the pairing of Chi Omega and Beta Theta Pi, who are building a six-hole mini golf course instead of the group’s traditional full facade. The group is also partnering with the North Side Community School, a small K-5 public charter school in northern St. Louis.
Philanthropy overall for the group and senior Hannah Raskin-Gross said that their decision to depart from the facade tradition was part of an effort to refocus on the philanthropic aspects of the carnival.
“What we really wanted to do is shift our focus. We always put a huge focus on our facade and what we’re building, which is really important and really great, but I think that with the carnival itself there is a big focus on philanthropy and where the money is going, and we always raised a decent amount of money for a charity, but we wanted to do something more,” Raskin-Gross said. “There was a big push for that within our chapter and Beta as well.”
Similar to Ready Readers, the North Side Community School is working to enhance and expand the literacy of young readers in St. Louis. Donations from Chi Omega and Beta will go towards establishing a leveled reading program throughout the grade levels to provide students clear reading goals and a variety of suitable books to accomplish them.
Delta Sigma Pi (DSP) will sell funnel cakes at the carnival like they have in previous years, a fundraising effort alongside sponsorships and a GoFundMe page, which will all go towards another St. Louis organization called Footprints that supports families of sick children at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.
“It’s an extra offshoot of the hospital that has funds for families that really can’t pay for a lot of the everyday things, more focused on quality of life instead of medical bills,” Leah Bhambri, sophomore and DSP overall said. “My brother was taken care of at that hospital, so it’s really special to me.”
Senior and Delta Gamma overall Hailey Durno noted that her experiences building full facades in past years have been positive, resulting in lasting friendships and a great campus tradition. But, like Smith and Rickeman, she feels the diversification will be a welcomed change.
“It looks sort of intimidating to have six or seven huge 12-16 foot structures,” Durno said. “So I think this will increase a lot of community involvement.”
She also noted that DG—who is building a full facade with fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon—decided to contribute its proceeds to the de Villiers memorial fund, set up in memory of a SAE brother who died last summer, which will go to cancer research and patient support.
“We as DG voted to put our portion of the proceeds to that cause as well because a lot of our sisters and the girls in our chapter felt very strongly about it, almost a unanimous vote to put our funds behind that cause,” Durno said.
Editor’s Note: Editor-in-Chief Noa Yadidi is a member of Delta Gamma and Associate Editor Wesley Jenkins is a candidate of Beta Theta Pi. They were not involved in the reporting of this story.