Winter Ball, Colorado College’s most formal occasion, has traditionally been one of the school’s most popular organized events. Taking place towards the beginning of Block 5, the ball provides students with a chance to dress in their finest formal attire, get bussed to an off-campus venue, and share a night out with their friends. While CC students generally adopt a casual style that follows them to events such as Blues ‘n’ Shoes and Llamapalooza, Winter Ball provides student the change to get dressed up for a special night each year.
Sophomore hockey player Gregg Burmaster said “we should have more formal events at CC,” although RLCA staff member Bethany Grubbs stated that “she’s not looking to add more formal events to the calendar.” Burmaster continued, “I know a lot of guys who enjoy getting dressed up and going out, whether it’s for a ball or for something else. Being on a sports team, we have a lot of events where we get to wear costumes and it’s really fun. Having a formal event isn’t like anything else—it’s not like just going out to a party since it’s something more to look forward to.” Burmaster and sophomore Annie Bronfman both emphasized their desire for one more formal event on campus, either in the fall or during the spring blocks.
However, Bronfman added that the “once-a-year thing does make the whole event seem more special.” Bronfman also added that an event like Winter Ball is “something that only a small liberal arts college can do,” since there was such a high percentage of overall student attendance. Grubbs reported an approximate head count of 1,600 students at the door. Grubbs, who has worked at CC for over seven years, has seen Winter Ball grow and flourish in her role as planner.
During her first year at CC “the attendance was very limited because we only rented one ballroom and had to stay within its capacity, which made it tough for staff to manage and tough for students who didn’t get tickets in time. Even prior to that, I believe Winter Ball was an event students had to pay for; but thanks to the student activities fee and the addition of another ballroom, it’s now open to all students,” Grubbs said.
The diverse group of students who attend Winter Ball makes for a fun and inviting atmosphere. First-year Daniel Sarché, who photographed the event had the “unique perspective of being outside the bubble of the crowd.” From his objective perspective, Sarché observed, “everyone really is in their own little awesome world. I saw people sharing moments of love, friendship, and affection that, were I a regular guest, I just wouldn’t have taken the time to notice.” Through his photography, Sarché was able to capture students in their formal wear. “Being casual about dress strikes me as a pretty major part of the CC culture,” he commented. “It’s great, but as freeing as it is to be in a school where people more or less can dress however they like, it’s still so much fun to have the chance to dress to the nines for a night.”
“My friends looked fine as hell. And so did I,” one anonymous source commented. CC has made numerous advances in recent years to help more people feel welcome at Winter Ball. Through her office, Grubbs conducted a survey last summer “aimed to find out if there were demographic populations that didn’t feel a sense of belonging at Winter Ball. Results showed that most people felt welcome, but we still had a sense that the people in attendance at the event weren’t fully representative of our student body.” Since CC as a community places so much importance on inclusion, Grubbs and her supervisor Yolany Gonell, Director of Residential Life and Campus Activities, “tried to make it clear that all were welcome and all were invited. [Gonell] encourages me to constantly look at the engagement of underrepresented students and how I can increase a sense of welcome,” Grubbs said.
CC’s emphasis on inclusion did not go unnoticed at this year’s dance. Sarché observed that “there weren’t really wallflowers” at Winter Ball. “At a high school or a middle school dance, you get used to seeing people who are really embarrassed to join the crowd, and just sit against a wall without talking to anyone.” Burmaster added that the biggest difference between CC’s Winter Ball and dances he attended while visiting the University of New Hampshire was that at CC, almost the whole school (over 75 percent of the student body) attended, which simply isn’t possible at a much bigger school. “Everyone I saw was really having a good time. The overall vibe I caught was that people were there to have fun, and they didn’t care who saw. I caught lots of crazy expressions and whatnot in my photos, and (as cliché as it might sound) a lot of smiles” Sarché commented.
Taking photos throughout the night, he was able to watch people on the dance floor and take candid shots. “The bigger the crowd around you, I guess, the less self-conscious you become.”
Kicking off second semester on a high note, Winter Ball provided a “welcoming, fun environment” that made everyone feel included. Even first-year students felt as though the event lived up to the hype they’d heard from older students. Sarché thought it had “most everything good events should: late night breakfast, a jazz band, and not one, but two dance floors. Perfect.”