Indoors – another side of the state of the great outdoors
Alaska is not just the great outdoors, tough men and women mushing dogs thru a blizzard of snow, and mining for gold. It is not all about subsidence lifestyle with hunting, trapping and fishing. And it is not just hiking, snow-shoeing, skiing, and snow machining for fun. A regular event is the so-called “40 Below Ball” organized by the Fairbanks Ballroom Dance Club.
They changed the name of the ball from “Moonshine Ball” to “40 Below Ball”, because it was below -20F (-29.8oC) so often when they held their winter ball. However, ever since the renaming, the night of the ball was never 40 below zero. Such low temperatures are a logistic problem from a dressing point of view for the ladies. This year’s 40 Below Ball missed 40 below zero by about 10 days. 🙂
Alaskan dancers take long rides for a ball
Alaska is a state of the size of Europe from the Ural to Portugal. However, its population is about 736,732 (Census 2014). This means there are not that many opportunities to go to a ball. In many cities, there won’t be a ball at all due to the low population. Consequently, Alaskan dancers drive long distances to attend a ball.
There was a group of young people who drove all the way up to Fairbanks from Anchorage. The driving distance between Anchorage and Fairbanks is 359 miles (~578 km). In winter, it takes about 10 to 12 h depending on the snow and road conditions. At the Governor’s Inaugural Ball two years ago, there were even attendees who had flown in from the North Slope as far away as Barrow (502 miles, 805 km).
A special highlight of the ball are the performances of the the Lathrop High School Ballroom Dance Team. Do I have to mention that they are not just great dancers, but also have an entire storage room full of beautiful gowns. I showed you just their dance gowns suitable for waltz some time ago.
The most beautiful gowns
The usual tourist walking thru Fairbanks in summer or even during the aurora season has no idea what treasures are in the Fairbanks closets when it comes to formal or semi-formal attire. Alaska street style seems to be so down to earth and all about staying warm. O.K., in the Interior in summer, it is also about staying cool. The highest air temperature recorded in the Interior was 100F (37.8oC) in Fort Yukon on June 27, 1915.
The photos in this post are showing some of my favorite dresses. The Millennia were among the best dressed. There were hardly any generation X dancers, probably because it’s hard to get a child sitter on the first warm weekend after the cold snap 😉 . There were also some very stylish baby boomers and war generation fashionistas.
What I wore
I wore a high-low hem velvet wrap dress that I found at Shein. I styled it with a statement pendent necklace to match the line of the dress’ V-neck. Velvet is a cold season fabric. Therefore, I went for my silver closed toe shoes dance shoes with T-strap instead of my strappy black or strappy gold dance sandals. This choice gave the outfit a slight late 30s vibe. To stay warm between dances and at the buffet I added a stole that was a thrift store find in town years ago.
The buffet and drinks
The buffet is quite different from those I have seen at balls in Europe. It had various Alaska food items like the reindeer sausages, crab mushrooms and hummus mixed with smoked salmon. I love eating salmon, and I love eating humus, but I am not thrilled about mixing them. I am more an on the side gal like Sally in the movie “You’ve got mail.”
Typically, in Alaska, you get water, tea and coffee for free at events like a ball for the designated drivers. However, this time there was just water. May be one could have gotten free coffee or tea, but one would have had to ask. I didn’t check as I was fine with water. There was also a no-host bar with all kinds of Alaska beers, some national and international brews as well as various different wines. However, as usual, no champagne. Why is that? I have never been at a ball in Europe where there wasn’t champagne the It drink.
Do you go to balls? Would you drive that far to attend a ball? Would you fly more than 500 miles to dance? Which of the gowns is your favorite?
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Photos: G. Kramm
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