• The Dance Mistress

Planning the Outlander Ball

Updated: Jun 14, 2020

I have always loved going to balls! When I was younger, my friend Ashleigh and I would hit the road, several times a year, to attend magnificent and not so magnificent balls around the Southeast. I always dreamed of organizing one here but there weren't a lot of historic properties and a lot of people just didn't have the clothing. The prospect of putting together a mediocre ball wasn't appealing.


Several years, marriages and kids later, Outlander was introduced and a theme started stirring in my head. A period ball with clothing from the 18th century, 1940s and 1960s! I have several artistic, history loving friends who would be interested in this kind of event and anyone who didn't already own 18th century clothing could easily put a vintage outfit together.


If I wanted to rent a venue, I would need to sell tickets to the public so I asked my friends for their opinion and then put out a public poll on Facebook. I contacted history groups, the Outlander costuming community and the Dragon Con crowd. The Outlander ball was pitched as an 18th century ball with period music, finger foods and dance instruction. For those who weren't big dancers, a gaming room with period and themed games would be available as well as a costume contest, period Scottish and French dance performances and a fencing demonstration. I received a lot of great feedback. I was told I needed to raise the admission price, was informed of the importance of event insurance and was happy to hear that people really wanted it to be held in a historic venue.


Now to find a venue. All the 18th century looking ballrooms in Atlanta were out of my price range. A local museum was interested in hosting it for a while and then an event company expressed interest in taking over the reigns. Unfortunately, no one would commit so I needed to figure out how to do it on my own. A daunting prospect that seemed overwhelming.


Years ago, I had taken a tour of the Stonehenge Mansion offer by the Atlanta Preservation Center. The house was amazing but the ballroom was a complete wreck. I called after the tour and offering to do a charity performance to raise money for the house restoration and was told that they didn't allow dancing inside the house. I hesitantly called them again and was told that this wasn't their policy anymore. Hooray! I enlisted Steve Maddern, decorator extraordinaire, to come tour the property with me and we were both pleasantly surprised. The ballroom had just been renovated and they were laying new hardwood floors as we were touring the house!


After conferring with Steve about period decorations, Amy Wachtel about setting up a gaming room and Debbie Becka about baking period Scottish dishes, I contacted Jeannie Rucker. Jeannie has been hosting period balls in SC for the last 20 years and is a wealth of information. I spoke with her about planning ideas and she was so encouraging. She offered to drive down and volunteer during the ball and I was so relieved. Now, I had a solid crew for the event and my dance partner, Chris Wilson, and I could focus on dealing with the musicians, performers and calling the dances.


A Facebook event page was created by my friend Marie Walker and details were added such as costume information and reference pictures. The event had evolved to include a tribute to Robert Burns sung by Robin Smith and 18th century magic and fortune telling by Never & Moore. How wonderful!


Tickets were sold by Eventbrite with no refunds. Anyone who decided not to attend could post their tickets for sale on the event page. I just requested that they let me know so I could update the attendee list for check in. Tickets were limited to 60 people. This was the number of people who could fit comfortable inside the ballroom. Tickets were $ 45.00 per person and $ 20.00 for volunteers who would contribute about one hour of help before, during or after the event. Since this was the first year, it seemed like a good idea and there were only a handful of people who weren't able to get a ticket.


The ball is coming up Jan. 25th and I have high hopes for it's success. It has been three years in planning so I can't wait to see the end result. I could never have planned this without the talents and help of the friends listed above. If your interested is reading more about the ball, the link is https://www.facebook.com/events/311658639757410/?active_tab=about. If your in the process of planning your own ball, find your vision first, enlist your friends and find your market. Good luck and happy planning. Photos of me touring the Stonehenge Mansion courtesy of Terry Kerns and musician, Bill Porter.



 




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