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Winterfest Takes the Chill Off

Weekend offered cooking, ice sculpting, TED conference

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Bruna Maia took the stage at a packed College of General Studies Jacob Sleeper Auditorium on Saturday afternoon to present her tribute to the New York City subway.

“The subway is a life force of the city,” said Maia (CAS’10), one of more than a dozen speakers at Saturday’s TEDxBU conference. “You can’t go around in New York without using it every day.”

The event was part of the Boston University Alumni Association’s sixth annual Winterfest weekend, which also featured ice skating, campus tours, kids’ activities, and classes led by star faculty.

The TEDxBU conference was sponsored by the Howard Thurman Center, BU’s multicultural center, and organized by students. TED is a nonprofit organization whose annual conference brings together innovative thinkers and leaders from around the world. Its TEDx program enables individuals or groups to organize independent events.

The theme of the BU program was “twisted logic,” and the goal was to challenge conventional thinking about a wide range of topics. Speakers included faculty, students, and alumni, including Hakim Walker (CAS’09), who gave his take on the omnipotence paradox, and Sarah Merriman (CAS’12), whose talk was titled Not Every Woman Is a Feminist, but Every Man Should Be.

Maia said she began studying New York’s subway system and its subculture after moving to the city. What she saw was an intimacy, a hidden beauty, and a community. “The subway,” she said, “is just as much about the ride as it is about the destination.”

Earlier in the day, the demonstration kitchen at 808 Comm Ave was also at capacity. Parents and their children—budding cooks, all—sat at long tables while Deborah Hansen, chef-owner of Brookline’s Taberna de Haro, whipped up an empanada, with onions, peppers, tomatoes, tuna, and smokey Spanish paprika. It wasn’t long before the room filled with the scent of onions sautéing in olive oil. “Olive oil in Spain is not just a cooking medium,” Hansen explained. “It’s extremely nutritious, very rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K.”

At 2 p.m., more than 100 people braved the chill to watch a quidditch tournament at Nickerson Field, featuring teams from BU, Tufts, Emerson, and UMass Boston. The BU club, founded in 2008, has been growing, said president Joe Barkus (SMG’13), after his team dispatched UMass in an exhibition game. “We keep getting better,” he said.

And over at the Fitness & Recreation Center, teams of alumni and their friends and families sketched their ideas for ice sculptures, which were then brought to life by professionals with chain saws.

Pam Helling and her husband, Alan Campbell (CAS’92), created a cake, with the number 21 and two candles, in honor of her niece, Amanda Schmitz (SAR’12). Schmitz, a member of the BU swimming and diving team, turned 21 on February 23. “This is our fifth year,” Helling said. “It’s fun. I like doing artistic things.”

Aya Rothwell (COM’07) and her team planned to sculpt Cerberus, the three-headed dog from Greek mythology who guards the gates of hell. Rothwell was participating in the ice-sculpting event for the third year in a row. “It’s fun to get together with friends,” she said. “You argue about what you want to make, then you make it, and then the guy with the chain saw says, ‘What is this?’”

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

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