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ISSUE 118 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/11/2005

And the winner is...

By Peter Farrell
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 11, 2005

Interior decorating competitions bring out the worst in everyone. It’s a high-adrenaline sport. The atmosphere is electric, the competition fierce and the stakes high. The St. Olaf “Parade of Rooms” – held March 6 from 1-4 p.m. – was no exception. Being known locally, if not universally, as this fine institution’s resident guru of all things design, the Manitou Messenger called upon me to cover this decorating showdown in what promised to be the most riveting three hours of my life. Emerging from my dust-caked crater of a room at the crack of lunch, my journey began with a quick study of the competition’s strict guidelines. The competitors had been decided a few weeks prior to the “real” contest; each dormitory on campus held an individual inter-dorm tournament to determine which rooms would participate in the larger, far more prestigious, campus-wide event.

During the boldly-named the “Parade of Rooms” (“Parade of Homes” lawsuit still pending), judges were to crown one victor. To that room would go all the glory and fame associated with having the best dorm room on campus, along with a $100 gift certificate to IKEA. Rumored, but not promised, was the alluring possibility of the college forcing IKEA to package whatever product was purchased by the winners with directions that actually make sense.

Hoyme Hall President Molly Boes ‘08 explained Interhall Council’s reasoning behind implementing the “Parade of Rooms.”

They wanted to “give students the opportunity to see different halls and see the best ways to make the best use of small space,” Boes said.

Judges based their evaluations on five different criteria: creativity, use of space, warmth, coordination and comfort level. With all of these criteria and more in mind, I set out to explore, examine and critique all 20 contenders. Here are the highlights of my highly unorganized quest to unearth the cream of St. Olaf’s dormitory crop.

My first stop was a mere three floors removed from my own lowly abode. Hoyme Hall victors Ellen Roth ‘08 and Molly Nelson ‘08 – potential art majors who only recently united as roommates – maintained that Hoyme itself was an intricate part of their controversial victory. Roth revealed the factor that set them apart from other residents of Hoyme.

“No feces on the floor,” Roth said.

Furthermore, Nelson adheres to a strict decorating philosophy that’s been refined to mathematical precision: “Lots of crazy stuff plus adhesives equals beautiful walls.”

The gentle, unassuming manner of Nelson and Roth hardly prepared me for the earth-shattering, resolutely facetious accusations of fellow first-years and hall neighbors Keeley Macneill and Laura Wilde. In what can only be understood or presented as an egregious oversight, Macneill and Wilde contended that Nelson and Roth had a distinct advantage over other Hoyme residents: a nook. Without a nook – a small corner or space of unspeakable, hidden wonders – how were they to compete effectively? Noting that their room was also free of feces, Macneill and Wilde posited that certain dorm rooms were inherently disadvantaged in this supposedly “fair” competition.

Take Kildahl, for example. Kildahl rooms are, to put it mildly, slightly strapped for space.

“We’re given a box,” Liz Welch said. You can’t do a lot with a box.”

Following my brief jaunt through the narrow, not-so-hallowed halls of Kildahl, I ventured over to the more infamous of the two towers on campus: Mohn Hall. Home to both first-years and upperclassmen, Mohn – according to sources young, old and decrepit – has worked hard over the years to establish its reputation as one of the “wilder” dorms on campus. That hard-partying atmosphere was largely absent on Sunday when serious competitors Isaac Kidder ’06 and George Cunningham ’06 greeted their guests with a tasteful arrangement of grape juice and cookies.

One of the few male squads to make it into the final rounds of the competition, Kidder and Cunningham’s room is eclectic. Kidder pointed out the antlers on the wall, which, in all honesty, nicely complemented the “flowing color scheme and complex line movement” of the “horizontally heavy” room.

“It has a little something for everyone,” Kidder said.

Kidder and Cunningham had to contend with another “horizontally heavy” room, however, and a buzz-worthy one at that.

Rand frontrunners Mark Barnhart ’06 and Martin Refsal ’06 overcame the freakishly grim lighting of the morose dorm’s hallways to impress with a full bar – alcohol-free, of course – complete with blue Christmas lights and shockingly comfortable stools.

The normally comatose Ellingson Hall was by far the biggest surprise of the day, however. Ferocious competitors Leslie Abell ‘08 and Nicole Zepper ’08 pointedly informed me that “victory was essential.” Unlike other contestants who wished to sheathe their ambition in a cloak of transparent indifference, Abell was frank.

“Perfection. Complete perfection,” Abell said. Clearly, ambition is hardly limited to academia within the mysterious confines of “Great Conversation central.”

As my long tour of St. Olaf’s finest budding young decorators drew to a close, one thing became strikingly clear: I know nothing, absolutely nothing, about interior decorating. After three hours of viewing well-coordinated color schemes, stain-free carpets and optimal spatial orientation, another thing became strikingly clear: Slobs like me make these people look good.

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