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Magic and Mystery at Winterfest 2011

Ice, cooking, twisted logic, and a quidditch tournament

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Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Winter still has three weeks to go, but alumni, students, and the entire BU community can make the best of it this weekend at the Boston University Alumni Association’s sixth annual Winterfest.

The event, happening today, February 25, and Saturday, February 26, will bring back some family-friendly traditions, many involving ice (sculpting, skating, and Terrier hockey) and at least one involving heat (a cooking demonstration featuring the foods of Spain). But new activities are scheduled as well, including a quidditch tournament on Nickerson Field and a TEDxBU event, sponsored by the Howard Thurman Center, BU’s multicultural center, and organized by students.

TED is a nonprofit organization whose annual conference, in Long Beach, Calif., brings together innovative thinkers and leaders from around the world. Its TEDx program enables individuals or groups to organize their own events locally; the BU program, which is titled Twisted Logic and is free for students, will feature 18 speakers, including students, alumni, and two faculty members. Organizers are expecting more than 500 people to attend.

Meg Umlas, executive director of alumni relations, anticipates about 1,000 people will participate in Winterfest this year, up from 775 in 2010. Events are open to the entire BU community, and today is the last day to register.

“There truly is something for everyone: theater, athletic events, educational and social experiences,” says Umlas.

The weekend kicks off tonight with a performance of the College of Fine Arts opera The Postman Always Rings Twice at 7:30 p.m. at the BU Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave. Also tonight, there will be an open skate from 8 to 10 p.m. at Walter Brown Arena, 285 Babcock St.

This theme of this year’s Winterfest, magic and mystery, is reflected in the classes led by BU professors on Saturday. Faculty will explore magic throughout Western history, the science behind invisibility cloaks, and the magic of vitamin D and of the Hollywood blockbuster.

On Saturday at 2 p.m., quidditch teams from BU, Harvard, Emerson, MIT, and Tufts will battle it out on Nickerson Field. And a Kids’ Fest, with magic, games, and crafts, will take place from noon to 4 p.m. at the Fitness & Recreation Center.

The magic will continue—at least that’s what Terrier fans hope—at 1 p.m., when the women’s basketball team takes on the University of Vermont Catamounts at Case Gym. At 5 p.m., a tailgate dinner precedes the men’s ice hockey game against the Catamounts at Agganis Arena.

Umlas says the TEDxBU event, from 1 to 5 p.m. in the College of General Studies Jacob Sleeper Auditorium, is a way to involve students in Winterfest.

The program, says Raul Fernandez (COM’00), assistant director of the Howard Thurman Center, will be a fast-moving series of talks. “It’s supposed to be centered around an idea you want to share with other people,” he says. “A lot of people end up leaving inspired.”

Trish Garrity (CAS’12) says she and cochairs Riley Roberts (CAS’12, SMG’12) and Jean Uwilingiyimana (CAS’11) came up with the theme Twisted Logic. “The goal is to make people stop and think about how they perceive the world,” she says, “and to break away from the accepted and what is conventional.”

The longest session will be an 18-minute performance by Iyeoka Okoawo, a Nigerian American poet, a recording artist, and a 2010 TED Global Fellow. Other speakers include Tyrone Porter, a College of Engineering assistant professor of mechanical engineering, Nathan Phillips, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of geography and environment, and more than a dozen students and alumni. The issues range from God to art, video games to the subway, says Garrity.

“There’s so much energy around this event,” particularly on Facebook and Twitter, she says. “It’s going to be incredible.”

Videos of the talks will be posted in a couple of weeks on the Howard Thurman Center and TEDxBU websites.

“Winterfest is a family-oriented event for Boston-area alumni and their families,” according to Steven Hall, associate vice president for alumni relations. “After the winter we’ve all had so far, we need a festival. What better way than to celebrate BU?”

Winterfest begins today, February 25, and continues Saturday, February 26, on the Charles River Campus. Today is the last day to register for events. A full schedule of events and a registration form are available here.

Cynthia K. Buccini can be reached at cbuccini@bu.edu

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