The Kate Kennedy Charity Opening Ball signified another sensational start to the year.

Ostentatious as ever, this year’s ball exceeded all expectations, and was host to a number of tipsy shenanigans from start to finish. Preceded by a month of chatter and hype, freshers were eagerly anticipating their first ball—an unofficial rite of passage for every St Andrean, considering how entrenched balls are in our town’s culture. Alongside the freshers, a hefty handful of returners were some of the first to get their hands on a ticket.

In keeping up with tradition, Opening Ball commenced just the same as it has in years past: with sophistication, elegance, and class. Guests were greeted with champagne upon walking through the wrought-iron entrance to Lower College Lawn. Combining the champagne reception with the presence of the Highland bagpiper, the ball started with all the refinement that one would expect from any event arranged by the Kate Kennedy Club.

It was difficult to imagine that only a few weeks ago, these grounds were the very same that hosted the crazy, glitter-infused hubbub that was Starfields. Lower College Lawn was completely transformed into a venue worthy of welcoming royalty. The red carpet leading down to the lawn was an aesthetically pleasing touch—for one night, guests could forget that they were actually attending university and just imagine that they are there for the fun—not a difficult thing to imagine, in my opinion, for anyone who has spent the smallest amount of time at this school.

The only hiccup at the onset of the night was the massive queue for the cloakroom, which was inconveniently located just a few feet past the champagne reception. The queue—if the disorganised swarm of guests could even be called a queue—took a ridiculous amount of time to get through, time that could have been spent enjoying the event and snagging some of the free ice cream before their stores were tragically cleaned out.

The crowd in front of the chaotic coat check, however, did not continue past the carpeted entrance, and it was all smooth-sailing from there on out. The generous room for sitting, standing, strolling, and dancing was complimented by the ambient, colourful lighting inside the tent. The outdoor portion of the venue was nicely presented as well, with ample seating area, lighting, and heaters, and food stations nearby. Luckily, skies were clear and winds never amounted to anything more than a light breeze, so guests took full advantage of the outdoor social area that they were gifted with.

The music did not have a promising start, warranting much worry from ball-goers who were keen to show off their best moves on the dance floor. Thankfully, it started to pick up as the event went on, and by the end of the night, the crowd could undoubtedly be heard all the way from neighbouring St Salvator’s Hall, howling the lyrics to “Breaking Free” from High School Musical at the top of their lungs.

The two dance floors were, as usual, a blessing. Guests had the freedom to migrate from one tent to the other if they were not content with the music, as well as providing a nice change of atmosphere. Both tents had an enthusiastic, pumped-up vibe, and the variety in tunes made sure that the night never lost its excitement and unpredictability.

The pricey tag on attending this ball was tided over by the presence of loads of freebies, including popcorn, ice cream, and candy floss. Supply was surprisingly plentiful, disregarding the ice cream, and it wasn’t until much later in the night that the popcorn and candy floss came to an end.

In addition to freebies, other snacks were available outside for a small price. La Crêperie, St Andrews’ premier crêpe supplier, sent forth a warm, buttery scent that wafted across the lawn and gave drunken guests a new purpose. The popularity of the crêpes was evident—queue cutters were rampant; such was the demand for the crêpes, and they were met with outrage from angry and disgruntled guests who had been standing in line, as is common decency. At around midnight, the crêpe makers frantically turned to each other to discuss the plight of having totally run out of Nutella. Hungry hordes of ball attendees and no more Nutella crêpes? A grave predicament, indeed.

Despite the dwindling availability of Nutella crêpes, guests also had the option of grabbing a delicious taco from Toro’s Tapas without having to suffer through a line. And then there was the saviour of every St Andrews event: the esteemed Blackhorn food truck. It is of my humble opinion that the presence of Blackhorn, in all its mouth-watering glory, has the power to make or break any function in this town, and catching sight of that familiar little black truck gave me reason to dance and drink on, safe and content with the knowledge that the Blackhorn crew would be there for me with open arms when my feet could take no more.

While much of the ball has stayed relatively the same from last year, perhaps the most notable improvement was the general atmosphere of the event. The previous ball had a vaguely awkward ambience, and its only saving grace was the last few minutes before the clock struck two when the DJ played Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” right before the night came to an end. This year however, there was not a single unenjoyable moment, and the night only got better as it progressed.

However, there were a few things that were sorely missed this year. Last year, the bar setup was a square island in the middle of the first tent. Conveniently shaped and placed, it provided easy access and a hassle-free way to get a drink. While the bar setup this year did not pose a major obstacle, the square formation from the previous year would have significantly enhanced the venue, and would have eliminated a lot of the awkward central space in the tent where guests were loitering, purposeless. But despite this minor drawback, attendees were still happy with the bar. Additionally, the extra bar located in the smaller tent made for an alternative option where guests could get their alcoholic fix, and distributed the traffic between the tents so that the crowd was not all concentrated in one area.

Another perk that was not available this year was the photo booth—one of the highlights of last year’s ball, and a godsend for those who couldn’t be bothered enough to tag down a person with a press pass and a camera. Perhaps next year’s ball will bring with it the return of the photo booth so that everyone has an equal chance to document their Opening ball experience.

All in all, The Kate Kennedy Club has truly outdone itself with the first ball of the academic year. Last night offered all the fun, flair, and flamboyance that was to be expected. Freshers no doubt received a proper, unforgettable St Andrean welcome courtesy of the Kate Kennedy Club, and it is a welcome that will stay with them for the next four years here at St Andrews. With bated breath we anticipate the next ball that the KKC has in store for us in May.

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