Jonathan Heisler/ Photo Editor Students, faculty, staff and members of the local community attend the annual Purim Carnival in the Events Center on Thursday evening. The carnival, organized by Chabad Center for Jewish Life, was held in honor of the Jewish holiday of Purim and featured several inflatable challenges, a Battle of the Bands competition, game booths and food tables serving hot dogs and knishes alongside fruit-filled hamentaschen.

Costume-clad students flocked to the Events Center on Thursday for Binghamton University’s 22nd annual Purim Carnival, which celebrates the Jewish holiday of the same name that will take place on Sunday.

The carnival, which draws close to 2,000 guests every year, offered several inflatable challenges, a Battle of the Bands competition, game booths and food tables serving hot dogs and knishes alongside fruit-filled hamentaschen, three-cornered cookies traditionally eaten on Purim.

President Harvey Stenger, present as a panelist to judge the contest for the most creative costumes, attended the festival for the first time.

“I like the idea, the concept of the holiday and the idea of having a carnival for it,” he said. “It gets people out of their funky, dreary cold-weather moods.”

All proceeds from the carnival’s raffles, food purchases and charity drive will be donated to local charities and the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.

According to Rabbi Levi Slonim of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life, Purim is a holiday that “commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people from Haman’s plot to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews.”

Slonim discussed the blend of celebration and significance that he said accompanies Purim.

“We celebrate the holiday in a fun and meaningful way — the message is for people to understand that some people think they can oppress other people and carry out evil deeds,” Slonim said. “Purim is about God listening and answering our prayers. Purim is the happiest day of the Jewish calendar year.”

Nearly every single attendee came to the carnival in costume: princesses, clowns, hobos, cartoon and television show characters, one squirrel and even Baxter the Bearcat showed up.

Jason Gross, a freshman majoring in accounting, came dressed as a woman in tight pants, a wig and a belly-baring shirt.

“I wanted to stand out and be unique,” Gross said. “I felt like Purim is a time of celebration and happiness, and when people look at me, they’re happy.”

Although planning the Purim Carnival began months in advance, the majority of the work is done in the weeks prior to the carnival. The event coordinators build off the success of past carnivals and student feedback, but there were no significant changes to this year’s event.

“There’s no reason to change things,” Rabbi Slonim said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Members of all the hosting organizations and other campus groups were hard at work entertaining guests. Michael Freilich, a sophomore majoring in accounting, praised the organization of the carnival.

“Chabad is an amazing organization that pulls the Jewish community together and does a great job at this every year,” Freilich said.

—Kathy Benhamou contributed to this report