Cows aren’t usually associated with the holidays. But when Madison Dunning ‘23OD saw a cow on a holiday sweater at a department store, she had to have it.
Although Dunning’s favorite animal is the polar bear, she has an affinity for cows. She’s from North Carolina and her parents are currently in the process of building a house on land that used to be her great-grandparents’ dairy farm in rural Eli Whitney, N.C. And, when she goes home, she enjoys visiting the cows that roam the adjacent dairy farm.
She purchased the cow sweater because she and her boyfriend were invited to an ugly sweater Christmas party in December 2019. So when the University decided to include an ugly sweater contest as part of this year’s Dean’s Winterfest Jan. 10 in the Hafter Student Community Center gymnasium, Dunning was prepared to roll out the cow sweater and compete.
“I had never bought or had an ugly Christmas sweater before, and this was my first time participating in an ugly sweater contest,” said Dunning. “But I have known about the contest for years because I’m a student ambassador alumni and therefore have been part of the planning for Winterfest for the past few years. It’s definitely one of my all-time favorite events at Salus.”
Dunning was one of four contestants in the ugly sweater contest. To help complement the cow sweater, she chose a song called “Mooo!” by Doja Cat as her runway walk-up music.
But her efforts to secure the ugly holiday sweater top prize fell short. Sonja Makitan ‘23OD, who revealed her secret talent is being nice to rude people and used “Ring the Alarm” by Beyoncé as her walk-up music, and Ashka Patel ‘23OD, whose fun fact is that she’s from Ohio and loves corn, used “Sign” by Drake as her walk-up music, were named co-winners of the contest as determined by audience applause showdown. A sweater vest by Ryan Grabowski ‘23OD, who revealed that he makes his own wine and walked the runway to “Glamorous” by Fergie, also participated in the contest.
Makitan, whose “sweater” was a white wooly jacket, she found in the outerwear section of a consignment shop and she just couldn’t pass it up. “I feel like a polar bear when I’m wearing it,” she said. “With the Beyoncé music, this coat and some attitude, I thought I had a chance. But I’m surprised I won.”
Patel’s “sweater” was actually a poncho featuring a Santa design. She purchased it at a department store the day after Christmas in 2018, when it went on sale for the ridiculously low price of $5. “This Santa poncho makes me feel very festive and in touch with the holidays,” she said, adding that this is the first ugly sweater contest she’s entered with the poncho. “I am Hindu and don’t celebrate Christmas, but you can always be in the holiday spirit. We’re here on this lovely campus celebrating with our friends and having a great time.”
This year was the fourth annual Dean’s Winterfest, which provides an opportunity for everyone across campus to come together and renew their friendships and welcome the New Year before the semester gets really busy, according to Dr. James Caldwell, dean of Student Affairs.
Initially, the premise of Winterfest started with a small idea that transitioned to a larger scale to show the Office of Student Affairs in a different light – one not so serious. The goal was for students to be able to interact with Dr. Caldwell in a capacity they don’t often get to see him, one when he is not a facilitator of the University’s policies.
“Several years ago we were looking for the right time of the year to do it and personally I love January,” said Dr. Caldwell. “I love the peace and quiet after the hubbub and high energy of the holidays. There’s no better reason to bring friends, colleagues and students together to enjoy good food, good music and have some fun.”
This year’s Winterfest theme was “Winterfest en Blanc” – Winterfest in White – and the gymnasium was decorated in all white. In addition to the ugly sweater contest, the event also included games, prizes and lots of food.
“The event went well overall. We had food left over, which is always a plus,” said Jennifer Benoit ‘22OD, student ambassador coordinator, who along with the other student ambassadors planned the event. “The ambassadors did a great job of working together. Many of them are first-years and had to coordinate while barely knowing each other. I saw a lot of idea sharing and collaboration. The positive feedback we got during the event solidified my impression that it was a big success.”