After years of paper snowflakes and holiday spirit, the beloved John Brown University Christmas tradition, Walker Wonderland, is permanently canceled.
Megan Hansen, a senior art and illustration student and resident of Walker Hall, said she is passionately upset about the decision to cancel the event. In her senior year, Hansen finally got the chance to move into Walker after wishing she could participate in the event for over three years.
“I love decorating and crafting huge things. I love turning mundane spaces into magical ones, and that’s exactly what Wonderland is about. This event is right up my alley, and I had been aching to be a part of it since I first heard about it during one of my high school visits to JBU. I can’t believe I just barely missed my chance!” Hansen said.
In high school, Hansen transformed gyms into elaborate set designs, including Alice in Wonderland and Webber and Leroux’s Paris. Hansen loves the arts and felt blindsided when she heard the news.
“People who haven’t heard yet are. . .kind of minorly devastated when I break the news. That phrase may seem dramatic, but it evokes some of the same gut feelings as the removal of Doug. . .the Deer. It’s a little piece of home and warmth and fun unexpectedly taken away during a stressful time,” said Hansen.
LeighAnnah Lane, a senior intercultural studies major and former Resident Assistant in Walker, said she was torn over the cancellation. Lane has an older brother who graduated from JBU in 2012, and she remembers coming to Walker when she was younger to see the decorations.
“It’s bittersweet because it has been such a great tradition throughout the years. When we decorated the dorm last year we had no clue it would be our last year,” Lane said.
“It’s a tradition that is dying and that’s always going to be painful. . .it’s sad for people who have participated in the past and worked really hard for the event just to see it go,” Lane said.
Emily Callon, in her first year as Residential Director of Walker, made the decision to cancel the event after talking to many people, including the previous RD and the Residence Life team. Despite the hurt that the students are feeling, Callon encouraged the students to think about the positive aspects that could come out of a new tradition.
“By canceling Walker Wonderland, we are creating an opportunity for a new tradition,” Callon said. “Overall, the negative elements of this program outweighed the positive elements. Students were using their resources, time, and energy to put this event on. It was too close to finals, and required a level of effort that had become difficult to manage.” In addition, Callon said that the event was wasteful and a hassle to clean up.
Although there were valid reasons for the cancellation, Hansen felt that the negative aspects of the event could have been fixed by a few alterations.
“Damage to the dorms could be prevented by stronger regulation by RAs and possibly the addition of more restrictive rules. The timing could be alleviated by moving the event to earlier in the year,” Hansen said.
Another concern that Hansen brings up is the fear that Walker’s relationship with other dorms on campus will suffer because of the cancellation.
“Walker is a more introverted space. This is the event that pulled Walker together, bonding halls by decking them,” Hansen said. “This event was an invitation to both the JBU community and the Siloam community as a whole. Nothing is more immediately welcoming than opening up your home to a stranger, and this was Walker’s way of doing that.”
Callon said she understands the concerns of the students on campus and assured them that she is working to advocate for all the Walker residents in her decision. With the cancellation of Walker Wonderland, Callon is hoping to reinvent Walker’s identity in the community.
“Walker Hall is not contained to this Christmas event. My hope is Walker students are always welcoming, and by removing this one event, that it will then allow these relationships to happen throughout the year,” Callon said.
Callon said she hopes that the students can cherish their memories of Walker Wonderland, but keep their mind open to new traditions that will take its place. ResLife staff will announce the official cancellation in the upcoming weeks.