Fraternity ties 13-foot inflatable nutcracker to their roof


Robert Dillon

Greg, a 13-foot inflatable nutcracker, guards the rooftop of the Beta Sigma Psi fraternity house.

“A little more to the left!”

“Put some more slack on the line!”

“We gotta go to the next window!”

In the dying daylight of the evening, a group of engineering students gather beneath the roof of their fraternity house to strategize the placement of various ropes. As they shout out commands, groups of their friends joke around together nearby while people up above attempt to balance on an ice-covered roof.

More than two hours later, a large figure lurks over the front door of the Beta Sigma Psi house. With a neatly pressed red uniform and a tidy handlebar mustache, its 13-foot frame stands guard from the roof.

The fall 2022 pledge class of Beta Sigma Psi fraternity purchased a 13-foot inflatable nutcracker to decorate their house for the holiday season. To protect it from getting stolen or popped, they placed it on their roof.

Having the pledges decorate the house is an old tradition Beta Sigma Psi restored this year after the practice was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. When this semester’s 17 pledges were entrusted with $500 to buy Christmas decorations, the first thing on their minds was a giant inflatable.

The Beta Sigma Psi house sign lit up with a string of multi-colored Christmas lights. (Robert Dillon)

“When they would usually do this in the past, they would just get a bunch of lights, but we wanted to kind of do something different,” said Andrew Creel, a freshman in business.

The group visited Menards to gather the necessary decor, where they discovered an aisle full of Christmas inflatables for sale. Near the end of the lineup, they stumbled upon the tallest inflatable in the store: a 13-foot nutcracker.

They immediately knew it was the one.

“There wasn’t much of a process to buying [the nutcracker],” Creel said. “We didn’t have a plan going forward on what we were going to do. It was really just a spontaneous buy.”

The nutcracker cost $100, which allowed the group to spend their remaining $400 on an estimated 600 feet of Christmas lights.

Many of the group’s original doubts about the plan began to dissipate once they purchased the nutcracker, but they still had a tough task ahead of them. As they attempted to secure the nutcracker to their roof, they faced many weather-related obstacles.

“It was probably 70 degrees two days before, and [the temperature] just absolutely dropped,” said Justin Hingtgen, a freshman studying materials engineering. “None of us were used to the cold weather yet.”

The quick shift in weather also interfered with their ability to use the roof. The forecast from a few days earlier featured rain, and the leftover sitting water had frozen before it could evaporate away.

When the group went outside to secure the nutcracker, they discovered the roof was covered in ice. There was even a broken window screen trapped within the frozen water.

To work around this, they accessed the roof from a bathroom window and used the shower to fill buckets with hot water. They dumped the water across the roof until the ice melted, and then they swept it away to the ground below.

To the group’s amusement, they were forced to return to Menard’s for sidewalk salt when the water from the roof froze across their front entryway.

Beta Sigma Psi is full of engineers, according to Creel. They each worked together to calculate the best method to tie the nutcracker down, but it still took the group two and a half hours to successfully secure it.

“The hardest part was we couldn’t really tie it down to anything,” Hingtgen said. “We had to put it through the top four windows to get it to stay, and we had to get the right length of rope to get it to face the right direction.”

The front entrance of the Beta Sigma Psi fraternity house. (Robert Dillon)

For one of the third-story bedroom windows, the view outside is completely encompassed by the top of the nutcracker’s head.

“It looks out of place because it’s just a huge nutcracker, but that was kind of the point,” Creel said. “It was a little bigger compared to what the house was than we thought, but I guess for us bigger was better, you know–the bigger the more fun.”

As the other members of the fraternity looked at the pledges’ handiwork, they carried a mixture of excited smiles and dumbfounded expressions as they gazed up at the nutcracker standing on their roof.

“The idea of an inflatable to start with was kind of absurd,” Creel said. “There was a lot of skepticism to start with, but once I saw the packaging and realized it might actually work, that was when I got super excited.”

A few days after the initial set-up, the group decided to name the nutcracker Greg. Creel hopes Greg will become part of Beta Sigma Psi’s Christmas traditions and inspire holiday cheer for other people.

“It’s really cool that we started this,” Creel said. “Hopefully, we’ll maybe bring some Christmas cheer and decorations for other sororities and fraternities.”

Despite the cold weather and complications, decorating the house also served as an opportunity for the pledges to bond as a class and spend time together.

“Getting the nutcracker and getting all these lights was fun, but more than that, it was fun just hanging out with the guys,” Hingtgen said. “It’s more about who you’re doing it with, and it was just a lot of fun.”