Hundreds of University of Michigan students and Ann Arbor community members gathered on the snow-covered Diag Wednesday evening as snow continued to fall, turning the city into a winter wonderland. The city of Ann Arbor received about six inches of snow throughout the day, with students across campus fighting to stay warm and dry. The winter storm incited a massive snowball fight, similar to last year’s icy free-for-all. Students also constructed snowmen all across the Diag, with some of them reaching 10 feet in height. Meanwhile, dogs ran amuck with snowballs in their mouths and a couple of brave souls risked building a snow fortress around the block ‘M.’
The snowball fight was organized early Wednesday morning after a post on the U-M Reddit page urged students to make the most of the winter storm by gathering for a snowball fight at 5 p.m. The event was then further publicized on UMich Affirmations, a popular Instagram account among U-M students. The snowball fight also encouraged Ann Arbor residents of all ages to attend after it was posted on The Official Ann Arbor Townie Page on Facebook.
Even University President Santa Ono joined in on the fun and traded in his iconic suit and bowtie for a winter coat and a pair of gloves. He tweeted about his experience, which included being hit by a rogue snowball.
“Thanks to our students for inviting me to the snowball fight on the Diag,” Ono tweeted. “Stay safe everyone.”
LSA sophomore Sophia Papadopoulos was waiting on the Diag before the fight began. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Papadopoulos said she was excited to get her hands dirty — or snowy, in this case — after she learned about the event through the UMich Affirmations post.
“I’m hoping it’s all chaos and craziness because that’s what we’ve seen in the past,” Papadopoulos said.
It wasn’t just students participating though. As the fight started, Ann Arbor residents like Doug Henderson came to both watch and take advantage of the winter weather. Henderson brought his two golden retrievers, Lucy and Penny, with him to observe the snowball fight.
“We take the dogs down on campus a lot, and (I) heard about the snowball fights,” Henderson said. “I actually saw it on Facebook.”
Corie Pauling, U-M Alumni Association president and a 1993 U-M graduate, was in attendance and said she was excited to see so many students finding joy in the first big snow of the year.
“It still is great to see that (the Diag) is still the center of this type of moment for students,” Pauling said. “I like to call these Michigan moments, because when these students graduate, they’re always going to remember this — the winter, the first big snow of 2023 and being out on the Diag, and with (hundreds) of other students, just doing all kinds of crazy things.”
LSA freshman Audrey Deguia said this year was the first time she attended a big snowball fight on campus and it instilled a sense of community in her.
“(The snowball fight is) really fun,” Deguia said. “It just shows how much the school has such a big community and it’s so much fun. Like, right now they’re throwing huge snowballs and a fort is built. It’s just so awesome.”
LSA freshman Tess Dombrowski said playing in the snow reminded her of her childhood. Dombrowski and her friend, LSA freshman Becca Rolling, said they knew things were serious when they arrived on the snowy Diag and saw two groups of students yelling “one, two, three” before charging at each other and throwing snowballs.
“(We’re here) because we miss playing in the snow like when we were younger,” Dombrowski said.
As the fighting wound down, about 40 students decided to continue the snowy fun by building a giant snowball — approximately 5 ft in diameter — and rolling it all the way from the Diag to the center of the Law Quadrangle. Engineering sophomores Jackson Frankel and Thomas Cuddy were two of the students who got the ball rolling on the Diag before they took it to the Law Quad.
“We just decided to start rolling (a snowball), and then we rolled it to the corner where the library is and 40 other people just randomly showed up,” Frankel said. “We rolled it all the way through, past the (University of Michigan Museum of Art), across the street, into the Law Quad, and it’s still sitting here next to this big snowman.”
The snowball even temporarily stopped traffic as it was rolled across South University Avenue. Meanwhile, people like Sue Johnson, chief development officer at the Ford School of Public Policy, were positioned in the Law Quad, awaiting its arrival.
“It’s so great to see people out having fun and enjoying the snow,” Johnson said. “I’m a big fan. I haven’t seen this massive snowball yet, but I know it’s in (the group of people) somewhere.”
Frankel said moments like the Diag snowball fight are the kind of memories that make a college experience at the University of Michigan so special. He said he will never forget the tumultuous journey with a giant snowball from the Diag to the Law Quad.
“It was the beauty of college on full display,” Frankel said.