A Fresh Look at the Old Winter Ball

Ms. Greta Powers, CVC Culture Correspondent

Two weeks before the Winter Ball, during White day block 3, Chittenden core Personal Health/Project Adventure teacher, TJ Mead, is laying out the rules for a highly anticipated game in Project Adventure.

“The game,” TJ eagerly says, “is called chaos ball.”

“Sounds like another name for Winter Ball,” I quipped. The remark was met by laughter from my classmates and a grin from TJ.

The previous day in Personal Health, the class had discussed different problems that could occur around the time of Winter Ball. It was merely another time out of a thousand someone had uttered the words “Winter Ball” at CVU in three weeks.

Whatever the reason for its popularity, there seems to be a lot of fuss over Winter Ball. My friends bought numerous dresses online to find the right one and to also eliminate the dreaded chance of being stuck with a faulty dress. When one of my male friends asked a girl why she purchased so many dresses, she quickly responded with, “Well, I have to find one that’s good!” as if it were obvious. It wasn’t quite that obvious to the boy.

I too, cynically enough, enjoyed seeing the ups and downs of people asking each other out to the ball. It was as if I were a spectator on the bleachers of a game, but the game was a bunch of 9th graders either being rejected and embarrassed, or accepted and excited. In this game, halftime is a big dose of emotions.

So what’s with all the hoopla about Winter Ball? Though not even the most popular formal dance of the year (Prom takes that prize), it still seems to catch the attention of many CVU students. Perhaps because it concludes the week of midterms and with that pressure gone, it’s a fun way to celebrate. Or maybe Winter Ball provides a sense of comaraderie amongst CVU students; everyone can talk about it because everyone knows about it.

I asked a couple of people what their experiences with Winter Ball were to gain some perspective on the whole thing. I sat down with TJ Mead to talk about what he’s noticed about Winter Ball’s effects on students over his years of being at CVU. Although he didn’t chaperone this year, he has in the past, and he has some acute views on the ball. I asked him how he thought Winter Ball affects high school students. He stated, “In a positive way, it’s an opportunity for a big portion of the CVU community to get together outside of school that can be really positive. People can be excited about that, and it can boost community morale.”

His response confirmed just what I had been feeling the weeks leading up to Winter Ball. No matter how people felt about the upcoming dance, it was still something that everyone can discuss. However, there is also the negative side of how Winter Ball affects students. “At the same time dances like this can increase anxiety during the school day for students who are worried about it, or students who feel they can’t access the dance.”

It is true that Winter Ball can be fairly stressful for some students. Pressure to find a date or even pressure to organize a group of friends to go can be a lot to handle. There is also the inevitable cost of going to Winter Ball. Costs to Winter Ball include the admission tickets ($25), the price of attire, perhaps dinner before, and even an extra $25 ticket, if paying for a date. The amount of money to go to Winter Ball can sometimes add up to hundreds of dollars, and the price alone could certainly deter students from going.

I also talked to one of my fellow freshmen who went to Winter Ball to gain a student perspective. She asked to remain anonymous. When I inquired about what her experience with the ball was, she responded with, “It was good, it was fun. For people who didn’t have dates it wasn’t as fun.” My friend, who did have a date to the ball, noticed that some people who were single at the dance didn’t have a good time due to the lack of a date. This begs the question: is there pressure for students to acquire a date to the ball if they want to have a good time? Of course, this doesn’t apply to all students, but it’s easy to imagine that those who don’t have a companion to the ball feel a hint of envy towards those who do.

 TJ had an opinion on students going to the dance alone. He explained, “In my experience students do not like to go alone. And by not alone I mean they go with a group of friends, they’re meeting someone there, or they have a date. Students don’t feel excited about going alone when they don’t have friends or a date.” So it could be true that another thing preventing students to attend Winter Ball is the lack of people with whom to go.

When I asked my friend if she thinks Winter Ball is overrated, she answered with, “It’s hard to say because I’m a freshman.” Possibly, Winter Ball changes in importance as one progresses through CVU. Where it was once an exciting new part of high school during freshman year, three years later, it’s just another dance that a bunch of 9th graders will be attending. When asked the question, TJ told me, “I would say that the general student body is really hyped in 9th grade, less in 10th grade, even less so in 11th grade, and by 12th grade it’s like, ‘Are we even going?’”

Finally, I talked to Debbie Seaton, Administrative Assistant in the Main Office at CVU. She has been taking pictures at Winter Ball for 14 years, and really enjoys it. I sat down with her to discuss her views, both figurative and literal, on Winter Ball over her years of attending. While we were talking, she brought up that the numbers of attendees to Winter Ball have seriously dropped over the years. “When I first started doing this, we used to have 200 kids from each house [from all four grades], so that was around 800 people. But this year, we just made 300 people. The ball isn’t as popular as it once was.”

The 500 people difference from years before and this year is truly shocking, but when looked at closely enough, it is clear that Winter Ball has some elements that prevent students from attending. These elements include an absence of people to go with, cost, and the mentality of what grade one is in.

Now that Winter Ball is over, and the numerous pictures of boutonniere clippings, high heels, and smiles float through our screens, and the dust from a hectic week of exams has cleared, everything seems calm at CVU now. But, also boring. There are no more excited 9th graders buzzing about who’s going with whom in the cores, no more online dress buying, and no more of an event that ties everyone together. The cool atmosphere of our high school is instilled once more, but is it for long? Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait for Prom.