Due to high rates of COVID-19 on campus, the Carleton COVID-19 Core Team has decided that large non-academic social gatherings are not feasible. This decision means that, for the second year in a row, Midwinter Ball will not take place.
Midwinter Ball is a Carleton tradition that dates back to 1981, and is typically held on the Saturday night of Mid-Term Break. In the past, it has been a chance for students to dress in formal attire and dance throughout Sayles.
Many students were unaware that Midwinter Ball had been cancelled, thinking that they would have received an email from the Student Activities Office (SAO) breaking the news. Chris Melo ’25 first heard the news through word of mouth. He said that for him, “it was kind of weird hearing the news [during] third week [rather than earlier in the term],” but that he also had not heard of Midwinter Ball at all before learning that it was cancelled.
Zoe Marquis ’25 had a similar experience of “not know[ing] much about Midwinter Ball to start with” and thought that the amount of notice the school provided seemed “short.” She said that she had been looking forward to finding out more about Midwinter Ball. This is not a unique experience; the class of 2024 never attended Midwinter Ball, and neither will this year’s freshmen.
Last year, SAO hosted an online Midwinter Ball.
“I really hope it’s not an online version like last year. I didn’t actually go to the one last year, but from what I heard, it’s really awkward to just see each other dancing on screen,” Jadie Luo ‘22 said. “I think the silent dance party works better since there’s a sense of community.”
Other students appreciated the online option. “I liked that they tried to do something instead of just doing nothing, because that is one of the Carleton traditions that I remember from freshman year being actually a lot of fun,” Grace Farwell ’23 said.
The Student Activities Programming Board is “looking at some fun activities for students to participate in during the 5th weekend,” said Miiko Taylor, the Associate Director of Student Activities & New Student Orientation.
“Midwinter Ball is such a cherished tradition at Carleton, and it is sad that we are not able to offer it this year, although I think the decision makes sense for the safety of the community,” said Taylor. “We hope that we will be able to provide the Midwinter Ball experience in future years.”
Farwell was surprised to find out about the cancellation only after The Carletonian reached out to her. “I feel like for the general Carleton community […] we don’t check the website to make sure that everything that is usually a standard is still happening, because there are a lot of Carleton traditions that we kind of expect to happen every year which have and have not been happening,” said Farwell.
While students interviewed were disappointed to not have Midwinter Ball this year, they also thought it made sense from a COVID-19 safety perspective. “It makes sense that it’s cancelled given the current COVID-19 situation,” said Marquis.
Farwell agreed, telling The Carletonian: “I am glad that they’re prioritizing in-person classroom learning over all other in-person gatherings.”
A 2010 article in The Carletonian about the 30th annual Midwinter Ball highlighted how important it is as a Carleton tradition, mentioning that it “attracts over half of the Carleton student population.” Then-Campus Activities Director Lee Clark, currently the Director of Student Activities, said it was “an opportunity for Carleton students to experience a semi-formal evening with their friends in a safe and fun environment without driving to the Cities or spending a lot of money.”
Chris Marshall ’10 described it as “a cross between a Sayles dance and your senior prom […]-– an opportunity to dress up and do something fun without all the awkwardness of high school.” Rochelle Zheng ’12 said it was “one of [her] favorite events on campus.”
Farwell described her memory of Midwinter Ball her freshman year, the only Midwinter Ball she has had the opportunity to attend: “I know that I had a whole lot of fun and I was really glad it happened, because I enjoy chances to do something out of the ordinary and dress up and have fun and dance, and so that was a lot of fun, and I like having those opportunities,” said Farwell.
Assuming, however, that Midwinter Ball happens next year, only the Class of 2023 will have attended it before. The rest of the school will be experiencing it for the first time.
Farwell expressed her concerns to The Carletonian: “I wonder how many traditions are going to die out […] if knowledge isn’t passed down, it’s just going to fade away.”
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