Despite cold temperatures and competition from continued St. Patricks Day festivities and Auburn’s NCAA tournament matchup versus Houston, hundreds of students gathered on Samford Lawn Saturday night as part of the second annual Magnolia Ball.
The campus-wide dance, which is planned and hosted by the University Program Council’s Tiger Nights division, was originally started last year as a way to offer an alternative, alcohol-free event while also providing a Greek life-style formal for those who otherwise would not experience one.
For students in attendance, it was very much welcomed.
“It looked like a lot of fun, you know?” Graham Harvey, sophomore in kinesiology, said as dozens of students swag surfed mere feet away on the dance floor. “It looks like everyone's having a good time, and my girlfriend also forced me, well not forced me, but like dragged me out here.”
Those comments elicited a particular look from Maddie Stanhope, sophomore in pre-vet and Harvey’s girlfriend, who then provided her own opinion on the ball.
“I like going to events like this, I've been to a few on campus before so I kind of knew the gist of everything and usually they turn out to be a lot of fun,” Stanhope said. “The band is amazing, I love them.”
To pull off an event of this nature, careful and considerate planning that took upwards of four and a half months was required. According to organizers, they had to coordinate to get a tent, a band, a photo booth, a caterer, lights, balloons and space heaters to keep attendees warm in temperatures that dropped into the mid-40s.
Tiger Nights was also required to receive certain permits and permissions from the city and university to hold the event outdoors, and tents were set up days in advance to accommodate the rain Auburn received the day before.
“We usually start planning our spring events around October [or] November, so that's when Magnolia Ball planning started,” Cole Wheeler, sophomore in professional flight and Tiger Nights member, said. “We decided we wanted to have it on [Samford Lawn] this year under a tent, which was a whole different thing.”
It was a far cry from last year’s event, which was held in the Dixon Conference Center at The Hotel at Auburn University, but organizers were ecstatic with how it turned out.
“Turnout is actually really great. We were expecting it to be low attendance because of the game and because of the cold, and this is blown out of the water of what we were expecting,” Makena Dempsey, sophomore in aviation management and Tiger Nights member, said. “This is great. Like the amount of students especially on the dance floor actually enjoying it, it's really good for us.”
With those surpassed expectations came hope for Magnolia Ball’s future and its chances to become the next great staple of the Auburn experience.
“The goal was to always get it on Samford because Samford represents [the] history of Auburn and at the end of the day, this is going to be a tradition of Auburn hopefully for the next 100 years,” Hanna McGarahan, sophomore in hospitality management and Tiger Nights member, said. “Last year we had maybe 200 to 300 people come and it was at the hotel. This year, we had 300 people check in an hour.”
Colton Runyan, senior in aviation management and Magnolia Ball founder, wanted to provide an all-university formal when he came up with the idea last year. He believed the vast majority of the student body missed out on the formal experience and wanted to rectify that through the ball.
However, there was a certain aspect that stood out: the event was specifically alcohol-free and for good reason.
“It's a safe, free event for all Auburn students, no alcohol, because that's a really prevalent issue on Auburn’s campus, especially for undergrads. So we seek to provide this event where people don't have to worry about that,” Runyan said. “That's what it's all about: bringing the Auburn student body together.”
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Daniel Schmidt, senior in journalism, is the assistant news editor for the Auburn Plainsman.