Saturday, February 1, 2014

Day 265 - Attending a Formal Ball/The Frostiball

I have never been to a formal ball. While attending such a decorous event isn’t something that necessarily reflects my day-to-day approach to life, attending an event defined by such propriety and elegance has always been a point of curiosity to me. Even as a child, scenes of formal balls on television and in movies would stir in me a sense of wonder at the beauty of such affairs. For whatever reason, the idea of donning a suit and spending an evening taking in fine food, drink, and music has always maintained a sort of appeal that I have never been able to pinpoint. As a result, I decided shortly after my 30th birthday. I would make an effort to find a formal ball to attend during the course of my “I have never...” journey. Although I knew choices for such an event would be limited, I was set on finding a way to make it happen during my year of new experiences. I just had to find the right event at the right time.

Unfortunately, Rachael didn’t share my interest in attending a formal ball. As I began researching some options for attending such an event, she reluctantly agreed to attend as long as the event didn’t have any form of prohibitive cost beyond finding attire for the ball. As my choices quickly narrowed to a single choice for such an event, the annual Frostiball in downtown Madison, it became apparent avoiding an added expense would be unlikely. With a $100 price tag for attendance, food, and drinks, Rachael quickly stated she did not want to attend the event. As a result, I set to work inviting anyone and everyone I could think to attend, but each invite was met with a similar response.

Facing the very real prospects of attending the Frostiball on my own, I ultimately turned to a group of co-workers to gauge interest in helping make my goal of attending a formal ball a reality. As before, the cost of the event was a deterrent for almost everyone I asked; however, one of my more adventurous co-workers, Sunee, showed a slight interest in attending the event with me. After a little persistence and convincing she ultimately decided to accompany me on the event, which set into motion my first ever experience with a formal ball.

The planning and coordination leading up the Frostiball resulted in the night of the event coming quickly. After getting cleaned up and throwing on my best attire, I picked up Sunee en route to the event venue and prepared for a memorable evening. With the Frostiball taking place in the ornate lobby of the Overture Center in downtown Madison, I knew the sights and the sounds of the evening would be special, particularly given I had been waiting to experience such an event since I was young. Excitement at the idea of finally attending a formal ball guiding me, I eagerly directed my car to the Overture Center and Sunee and I made our way inside.

Our grand entrance

My first sight of the band

My desire to gain the full experience of the ball resulted in the two of us arriving to the event slightly ahead of its scheduled start time. As a result, Sunee and I talked a bit as people slowly streamed through the lobby doors. Men dressed to the nines in fine suits and women draped in beautifully crafted dresses began to fill the space around us. Their elegance and beauty gave Sunee and me plenty to chat about in the moments leading up to the event. We had yet to make our way into the venue hall, but the sights of the people around us made it apparent the evening would be one of style and grandeur. We were among the “who’s who” in Madison, and we were ready to make the most of the party.


Following the kickoff of the Frostiball, Sunee and I found our way into the dance hall and promptly grabbed a few glasses of champagne. As we walked deeper into the venue we encountered an array of fine foods, polished table settings, and an incredibly talented brass band playing against a backdrop of beautiful lights streaming down from the building’s towering windows. With the Wisconsin State Capitol dome glowing in the distance, the open space of the venue, complemented by the subtle designs scattered around it, was astonishingly beautiful. In awe, Sunee and I crept our way across the space to an open standing table and silently sipped at our glasses for a few moments. Eventually soaking in the reality of our circumstances, I spoke over the sound of the band and said the only thing in my mind at that time, “this is unbelievable. It’s beautiful.” Sunee nodded her head in agreement before grabbing her phone out of her purse and snapping a few photos. Laughing a bit, she responded with a brief remark, “Thanks for the invite.”

Getting busy...

Over the next few hours, Sunee and I slowly worked our way around the building, taking in the scenery and offering plenty of commentary as we people watched from tables and benches. Around us people spanning several generations milled about the hall and spun on the dance floor. The sight was equally beautiful and entertaining, and although I had every intention of taking to the dance floor myself at some point during the event, the crowded space and the rapid progression of the evening never made that a possibility. That stated, I didn’t feel I was missing much given the fun Sunee and I were having talking about the event from the sidelines. That interest carried us through the remainder of the event until we found ourselves a few drinks deep and running up against a midnight closure of my first ever formal ball.

As the event around us slowed itself back to a quiet performance hall lobby sparsely populated with people, Sunee and I found our way back to the coat check and into the cold night air. The magnificence of the evening still guiding us, we decided to wear off some of our drinks with a stop at another local venue before calling it a night. Reflecting on the experience, we mulled over some highlights from the evening and recalled some of the more ridiculous moments of the ball before the early morning hour told us both to call it a night.

After dropping Sunee off for the evening, I took some time to think about the Frostiball on my way home. As I recounted the experience in my head, it was obvious my first experience with a formal ball was beyond what I ever could have expected. For someone that thought he would stand out as someone that didn’t “fit” in a crowd of ritzy and notable people. I was surprised to find that Sunee and I were actually a few of many people that were simply there to have a good time. Sure, our attire helped us blend in well enough, but the reality is the vast majority of people were simply at the event to have a good time among good company. Without question, the Frostiball was by far the most extravagant event I had ever attended, but the idea at the heart of the ball was the same as any other celebration, to eat, drink, and be merry. Of course, the added touch of the beautiful scenery and incredible decorations in the space made the event that much more memorable, but in the end the Frostiball was just a good Wisconsin party wrapped up in a fancy suit. After my first experience with a formal ball I would attend another without question. Tonight was simply full of entertainment and laughter, and I welcome any experience that can provide me both.

1 comment:

  1. You should plan a trip to Vienna, Austria. Nowhere else in the world are balls as formal, elegant, romantic and focused on dancing (the way it should be, since that's the root of the word ball) as during Vienna's ball season.