Macalester’s annual winter ball is officially on for this semester, after skipping last year due to COVID-19. In a departure from tradition, Macalester’s Program Board is hosting the event on campus in the Leonard Center instead of at an off-campus venue.
Program Board announced its plans for winter ball on Thursday, Oct. 14. The event will take place on Saturday, Nov. 13; students will need to reserve free tickets in advance.
According to Program Board’s winter ball coordinators, keeping the event on campus this year seemed like the safest bet to ensure that it could happen despite the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. The event will follow all guidelines by Center for Disease Control, the state and the college for mitigating COVID-19 — a measure that’s easier to enforce on campus.
“We came to the conclusion… that the only way to guarantee that winter ball could happen safely is if we did it here with the most control possible,” winter ball coordinator Lydia Schmelzer ’23 said.
Hosting the event was a priority for Program Board this year, after a year and a half of limited options for big gatherings.
“There was a push on our end to try and do it because we knew that people had such a rough year last year,” coordinator Talia Chait ’24 said. “It’s a kind of celebration of getting back together.”
Program Board has hosted some off-campus events this year, but the coordinators didn’t think that would be feasible for winter ball. They chose the venue in June, before anyone could predict the state of COVID-19 in November.
“Maybe if we could have guaranteed it would be sunny and 65 we could have done a venue outside, but it’s going to be November, it’s going to be cold, it’s going to be indoors, it’s going to be the entire campus,” Schmelzer said.
Macalester Office of Student Leadership and Engagement (OSLE) Staff were involved in the decision as well, serving as a bridge between Program Board and the administration, and ensured that Program Board was conscious of campus COVID-19 policies during the planning process. Coordinator of Student Programming and Engagement Logan Schrader declined to comment on the location selection process, saying that students had more perspective on the topic.
“The OSLE staff are our main advisors on this,” coordinator Carter Rutherford ’22 said. “But, ultimately, the decision was up to the board, and we decided that this would be best for students.”
Beyond COVID concerns, the Leonard Center is also a more accessible space for students, and an easier event logistically for Program Board to plan.
“Having it on campus offers accessibility in terms of allowing multiple people to come if someone has a disability or something else,” Chait said. “There’s all-gender bathrooms on campus that we know are there, there’s no problems with the bussing system and getting people onto the buses.”
Another factor for Program Board to consider was its budget for winter ball, which was about $10,000 less than it was in 2019. Program Board restructured its budget in the spring of 2020; before then, any leftover money at the end of the year would roll over into its budget for the next year. After the restructuring, leftover money goes back into the MCSG fund to be redistributed between student organizations and projects.
“Financially, it makes a lot more sense,” Rutherford said.
The event will still feature food and drinks. Program Board is also introducing a collaborative playlist, which they’re asking students to add to so that the DJ can pick music recommended by students.
The coordinators are enthusiastic for the winter ball that they’re planning, and they’re hopeful that students are enthusiastic despite the shift to an on-campus event.
“We’re really optimistic and excited about bringing people together and having a really great winter ball,” Rutherford said. “It is on campus, but it’s gonna be fun.”
*A previous version of this article stated that there will be a section for students over 21 at Winter Ball. According to Director of Student Leadership and Engagement Laurie Adamson, there will be no alcohol served at the event or section for students over 21.