Festive spirit was in the air as the students of the University of Nevada, Reno rang in the incoming holiday season with the Winter Festival at the fourth floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union ballrooms on Dec.1.

The pajama-party themed occasion offered relief during the busy lives of students as the fast-approaching end of the semester loomed. The free, student-centered event provided attendees with purely fun holiday ventures.

People group around the winter festival tables, making crafts, chatting and enjoying the holiday spirit.

Noah Scott/Nevada Sagebrush
Participants socialize among sweat treats and activities at the annual winter festival.

Students spent the evening carefully completing crafts and snacking on the sweet treats across 22 tables. With animated students gathered in long lines, the bustling scene had the spirit of the season all around. The event was so popular at its start, students sat on the floor due to a shortage of tables.

The Joe provided a survey to complete as part of this event, incentivizing attendees with a stuffed-animal and the opportunity to be entered to win a winter merchandise package. The survey was also used so students could suggest what types of events they would like to see in the future. As with many events at the Joe, students were able to receive JCSU and university themed merch.

Students feasted on DoughBoys donuts and self-decorated sugar cookies adorned with icing and sprinkles. Each student who fancied cookies decorated them in unique ways to mark the season with holiday and winter designs. To warm up on the surprisingly cold evening, attendees drank hot chocolate with mini marshmallows made with insulated hot water jugs.

Creative juices flowed across the board at the holiday gala. While the right side focused on stuffing stuffed animals and decorating cookies, the left side focused on meticulously painting miniature canvases.

Someone dressed as a reindeer holds a stuffed unicorn above their head at the winter festival.

Noah Scott/Nevada Sagebrush
A student in a fursuit costume presents a stuffed unicorn near the animal-stuffing craft section.

The hot chocolate and holiday cookie stations were on the right side of the room with the stuffed-animal stuffing area; students referred to the right side of the ballroom as the  “stuff-and-get-stuffed” side of the room.

The left side of the ballroom was fitted with large round tables holding many colors of acrylic paint so students could paint on miniature canvases. Everyone painted everything from festive Christmas designs to adorable cats and dogs. Imaginations ran wild at the art tables.

Participants danced all around the ballroom performing many other activities, from meeting with friends to bouncing around balloons. Stuffed animals from the activities were perched absolutely everywhere, glowing with holiday spirit. Holiday tunes emanated from the ballroom, consisting of classic Christmas hits such as “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey.

Despite these numerous activities, socialization and friend-making was, to many, the most important aspect of the festival. The seasonal function let students make holiday memories with friends before the oncoming winter break.

Grace Palliser, a student at the university, commented about the festival’s impact on her holiday experience.

“It got me more excited,”  Palliser said. “I’m really excited to go home for the holidays, especially with COVID[-19] last year. It was really different, but this year it feels more normal.”

Many students echoed this message of excitement for the holidays and expressed that the event helped them get in the holiday spirit. A student who mirrored this idea was Alexis George.

“At the event I did the stuffed animal part  … I also did the cookie decorating part which was super fun,” George said. “Plus having the donuts here and the hot chocolate is really nice … really brings in the Christmas spirit and the music of course too … It was great before break.”

It was an event enjoyed by people who were catching up with friends and having fun with the many holiday-themed ventures. Simple events such as this one provides a scene for a much needed break during such a stressful time of year.

Overall, the Winter Festival was a worthwhile adventure to ring in the 2021 holiday season.

Noah Scott can be reached at jaedynyoung@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.