First Annual Harvest Ball

Rebekah Young

Students will have the opportunity to travel back in time to experience social life in America during the Civil War through GVSU’s first living history dance tonight.

Hosted by the Civil War Club, the Harvest Ball will feature historical dance instruction, period-accurate live music, Victorian era parlor games and free refreshments. Located in room 2250 of the Kirkhoff Center, the dance will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

This is the club’s first large-scale event. It is open to the public and free for students. The entrance fee is $5 for non-students and $10 for families of four or more.

“There was no Facebook or Twitter during the Civil War — your social network was the people you saw on a daily basis or that you interacted with in public,” said Sarah Johnson, President of the Civil War Club. “Balls were the most common social gatherings where people could interact and even let their hair down a little.”

In addition to attending historical conferences, museums and locations relating to the Civil War, Johnson said another major aspect of the club is historical reenactment. The club attends reenactments across Michigan and also creates its own, in which club members don historical clothing and try to relive the lives of Americans during the war.

By hosting the Harvest Ball, Johnson said the club hopes to raise awareness about its presence on campus and “show the GVSU community a little taste of re-enacting, as well as mixing in a good dose of history.”

For this reason, club member Jacquie Lovegrove said the student group strives for accuracy.

To recreate the social atmosphere of an authentic dance, the ball will include professional historical dance caller Karen Dunnam and the Civil War era band Fiddlefire.

“The dances we will be doing are the same as people would have done 200 years ago,” Johnson said. “The caller will walk everyone through the steps, so if you’ve been doing historic dance for two decades or two minutes, you won’t get lost. And the live musical accompaniment really helps to set the mood and make the dancing more enjoyable.”

Lovegrove, a member of the club’s event planning committee, said the Harvest Ball will offer students a unique experience.

“It isn’t like other dances or events,” she said. “There is no bumping and grinding but actual dancing, and there will be other groups there who re-enact so students can ask questions and learn. Not only is this a fun event, it’s a learning experience too.”

Along with the dancing, Johnson said the event’s various historical games will mix entertainment with history by educating people about “the etiquette of the time.”

Though the games are no “spin the bottle” or “never have I ever,” she said the parlor activities are still “a lot of fun.”

The event will also feature a photo booth complete with a period accurate wardrobe so people attending “can get dressed in Civil War outfits and get their photos taken,” Lovegrove said.

Though it is not required, the Civil War Club encourages anyone attending to wear period dress. For men, Johnson describes the basic Civil War outfit as black dress pants, a button-up collared shirt and a vest. For women, she suggests an ankle or floor length skirt — “the fuller the skirt, the better” — and fitted bodice.

“The Harvest Ball will be unlike any other campus event,” Johnson said. “It will give people a better understanding of the civilities of the time by letting them be actively engaged in them.”

For more information, contact Johnson and other members at [email protected].

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