Sunday, November 9, 2008

MarsCon Masquerade Ball 2008

Wow, it's been a while since I've done a post hasn't it?

I went to the 2nd Annual MarsCon Masquerade Ball last night. Lots of great costumes again this year. I went in basically the same costume I did last year, with some minor updates.

What didn't work:

The Holiday Inn where the Ball is held (same hotel as the Con) moved the event into a smaller space on the first floor with little advance warning. There were two other events going on in the hotel - a wedding in the Main Ballroom and some Northwest Airlines seminar - which I heard got the 2nd floor space MarsCon had originally booked. I didn't see any signs pointing to the event, so I ended up walking through the whole second floor looking for it before I thought "hey, maybe it's in that room down of the first floor" which it was. But no signage sent me in that direction, so if I was unfamiliar with the hotel I wouldn't have known where it was being held. The area for "formal portraits" also took up a lot of the space in the room - it would have been nice if that could have been relocated to somewhere else. So anyway it was a little cramped in that smaller room, but the organizers can't be blamed for that. Makes me wonder, though, if they shouldn't look at alternate venues for next year's dance.

As was the case last year the actual snacks were up on another floor in the hotel. I don't know if the original plan had been to have that in the actual dance room or not, but in future years I really hope they move the food into the same room - or at the very least immediately outside the door or something. Since the hotel bar was just outside the room getting a drink was easy enough, though.

The weather was about what you'd expect for early November in Minnesota. Actually it reminded me a lot of Halloweens when I was a kid - snowing, blowing, and wearing a jacket over your costume. I think the cold and snow may have adversely affected attendance, which was noticeably down this year as compared to the inaugural ball last year. The dance was also likely competing for people with OmegaCon, an annual relax-a-con held in Siren, Wisconsin which is less than 100 miles away. Obviously the organizers can't be blamed for the weather, but it might have been more prudent to have scheduled the dance for the previous Saturday - immediately after Halloween - than on November 8th. For that matter, why not just schedule it AS a Halloween dance in the first place? I'm sure there are some people who wouldn't go because they'd feel like an idiot walking around in costume AFTER Halloween but who'd happily wear a costume to an actual Halloween dance. Even the weekend BEFORE Halloween would be preferable in my opinion. Think about it - if you are obviously celebrating a holiday AFTER it's over (and the holiday didn't fall in the middle of the week) you basically do look like an idiot who is calendar-impaired. But "getting in the mood" before the holiday is totally understandable.

People not dancing. Ok, I get it. Some people came to dress up, drink, and socialize - the dancing was just incidental to their evening. I'm as shy as anyone about being the first one out on the dance floor, or the ONLY one out there. The music was good dance music, but it seemed to me that the dance floor was empty (or nearly so) more often than not. Maybe someone can come up with some added incentive to get people out there?

What worked:

It's a very affordable night out. $10 at the door, snacks included (if you're willing to walk for them), and the option of a cash bar if you've got a few more dollars in your pocketbook.

It's fun to dress up in costume, especially when you're in a room full of other people who are in costume. I'd say I've seen a much wider variety of costumes at the two Masquerade Balls than I do at the actual convention - probably because it's not so limited to sci-fi/fantasy. The winners of the costume contest were dressed as Scarlet O'Hara and Rett Butler from "Gone with the Wind." I can't say I've seen THAT at a sci-fi convention. They also moved the costume contest up so voting finished earlier, which was nice for the people who either had to leave early or just can't party all the way to midnight.

I thought the variety of actually dance-able music was better this year.

People dancing! When people did "bust a move" on the dance floor it was a lot more fun, even for those watching. When the "Addams Family" theme came up everyone was singing along and snapping their fingers on cue. There was the obligatory "Time Warp" dance from Rocky Horror, of course, and at one point a conga line to the "Star Wars Cantina/Copacabana" song. There were also a couple of selections that had couples doing a waltz and others that had people doing the "robot."

My Final Verdict?
I'll definitely be going to it again next year if at all possible!

This is a relatively new event (being that this is only the "2nd Annual") so it will hopefully continue to be improved and refined as long as they keep holding it. In some ways I actually enjoy it more than a full convention - it's less of an investment in time and money, but you still get to party and geek out with a lot of the same folks you see at the Cons.

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