Freeze on Northrop Mall confuses and amuses

Students remained motionless for five minutes during the Minnesota Freeze on Thursday.

Tom Moran

When Mike Farrell took in the scene of his friends – and everyone else in Northrop Mall – freezing in place on Thursday afternoon, he was baffled.

“I honestly thought I was going crazy,” he said

Farrell questioned his sanity when his friend Maddy Summers, a public relations first-year, asked another friend for a hug, and he realized after a few moments that the two girls weren’t separating.

“I asked, ‘What are you guys doing?’ and then I turned around and everybody was frozen and I did a few takes,” he said. “I was kind of freaked out.”

Farrell, an electrical engineering first-year, unknowingly became a bystander in the Minnesota Freeze, where motionless University students filled all the sidewalks of the mall from 1:10 to 1:15 Thursday afternoon.

At the agreed-upon time, students posed, as others – who were left out of the loop – bobbed and weaved through them, trying to make sense of the scene.

Four students stood unmoving on a corner of a lawn area showcasing the YMCA dance, while nearby, another disappointedly looked down at her lifeless yo-yo. A man in front of Smith Hall knelt with one hand planted on the sidewalk and his arm outstretched clutching a flier.

Sophomore Will Holland, freeze organizer, first came up with the idea when he saw online video clips of similar spectacles, such as one set in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.

He set up a Facebook event a couple of weeks ago and planned attendance soon swelled to more than 614 in four days. However, fewer students actually participated.

Shortly after planned attendance reached 600, Holland made the event “secret” to avoid widespread exposure. He said he’s never tried to coordinate anything with this many people, but the social networking Web site made his work easy.

Diane Brown, a kinesiology sophomore, and her two friends were entrenched in a snowball fight, trying to stay still, as witnesses reacted.

“One guy almost ran right into me on his bike,” she said.

Many student reactions resonated through the mall during the freeze.

“Is this like a protest or something?” one curious bystander asked.

Kyle Thompson, a mechanical engineering first-year, was headed to class at the time of the freeze. He said he’d never seen anything like it, calling it “really weird.”

After five minutes, Northrop’s bell sounded and the scene returned to normal. The crowd dispersed quickly, amid clapping and cheering.

Theater sophomore and freeze participant Anika Reitman said she found out about the event through Facebook, which was its sole means of organization and was instantly attracted to the idea.

“When I read and watched the (Grand Central Terminal) video, I don’t know why I found it so funny,” she said. “I think because it’s going against the social norm.”

After the freeze, Reitman said watching people react was “a blast.”

Because Thursday’s affair was a success, Holland said a similar occurrence might soon happen at a different Twin Cities landmark.