Inaugural All Hallows Eve Dark Faerie Tale Masquerade Ball
Carrie Rowlands Johnson
SARATOGA SPRINGS -Tattered remnants of clothing and dirt-streaked cheekbones hang hauntingly across Cinderella’s skin-covered bones. She polishes candelabras and sweeps fairy dust from corners. Clearly, she has yet to receive the royal invitation that summons her transformation from dank chambermaid to sparkling princess, belle of the ball.
Around the princess-to-be, a ball of a different sort rages on, as fairy tales from throughout the ages spring to life. Alice in Wonderland leans over to whisper in the ear of the Mad Hatter. A huntsman throws his head back in laughter as a gypsy dances her way to his side. Masked ladies sing for their supper on the arm of The Phantom of the Opera.
I reach my hand to my face, grasping the delicate black mask between two fingers as I pull it away from my eyes, attempting to reestablish my peripheral vision. I feel as though I’ve stepped into a storybook. I turn my head side to side, attempting to absorb the entire scene.
Robin Hood has found his worthy cause and is redistributing wealth.
Sleeping Beauty is slowly beginning to restore consciousness.
I am mesmerized by the grand transformation that’s taken place inside the gorgeous Canfield Casino in Saratoga’s Congress Park. Oversized pieces of furniture act as props for digital keepsakes. Long tables are accessorized with ornate candelabras. Actors roam the ballroom, adding another layer to the fairy tales, these paired with monologues and song.
It is theatre come to life!
Placing guests in the middle of the production and offering enchanting interaction.
Masked guests clad in mystery and drama float throughout the space Men in masks and cloaks and women in masks and gowns. I’m cloaked by Lisa Champagne, Mandy Mittler and Arthur Gonick, our saratoga.com gala team. Lisa, Mandy and I have chosen long, dark gowns, evoking feelings of simplicity and elegance. Lisa hands me a glass of Champagne and after I add a maraschino cherry, we venture from the long, grand bar into the ball room where we mingle and photograph. The Canfield Casino has been remade into one grand stage, a haunted castle of sorts. Subjects from the kingdom mingle with storybook characters as they sip cocktails and nibble on appetizers.
The first year of The Dark Faerie Tale Masquerade to benefit the Saratoga Arts Fest, I had no idea what to expect before I walked through the doors of the Canfield Casino. With each step, I become increasingly mesmerized, almost giddy. After cocktail hour, conversation ceases and all eyes turn toward Sleeping Beauty, standing now but seemingly sleep walking as she leads us all toward the dining room, a pied piper of sorts. Dinner itself is a production all its own. Long tables elaborately decorated with spooky oversized candelabras invite us to a sit-down dinner. An eyeball crafted of cheese stares up at me as I reach for the spoon in my bowl of tomato soup. Lily and the Rose catering has created a delicious meal of the most perfectly cooked short rib with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. (And though I didn’t see it for myself, I’m told there was a vegetarian option as well.)
The theatrics, the sit-down dinner, the costumes and gowns, the guests… in my opinion, this party rivals that of the summer season’s best Galas. Held on a Thursday evening in mid-fall, however, the 150-dollar price tag is quite fitting.
As guests set down their forks and dinner winds to a close, Michael Jackson’s Thriller lures the crowd out to the dance floor. Costumed guests borrow the spotlight, twirling and dipping, as only a Saratoga crowd can do. I wander away for a brief moment, entranced by the decadent deserts, many of which contain my most favorite ingredient on the planet: chocolate. The Phantom of the Opera himself summons me back to the dance floor. Masks are untied, identities are revealed and the cover is closed on this the first of what we hope will be many more enchanting storybook productions.
(If I may make just one request… maybe an hour more of music and dancing next year?) Maybe by then Cinderella will have received her invitation and have time to dress and dash home before the clock strikes midnight.)
AN EVENING OF ENCHANTMENT
SARATOGA SPRINGS -SaratogaArtsFest first annual “All Hallows Eve Dark Faerie Tale Masquerade Ball” can only be described as an evening of enchantment; one which ravished the eyes and enraptured the imagination. Inspired by original folk and fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, guests were immersed in a magical world of make believe and the mise en scène of centuries past.
The Canfield Casino, one of Saratoga’s most treasured and perhaps haunted landmarks was the setting, and I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate venue. The talent of Simply Sidney’s added to the existing ambiance and the finer details were not missed. Medieval style banquet tables filled the dining hall. Tall, silver candelabras commanded attention as they lined the long tables and enhanced the dark feel of the room. Each were adorned with the intricate works of a spider and their silky, delicate artwork was illuminated by the candlelight emerging from them.
Seating for this event was carefully planned and guests were directed to assigned places. Each table was named after a character. Carrie, Mandy and me joined dinner guests at the “Dark Queen.” Again, organizers paid special attention to detail. Each place setting included a unique sign with each of our names etched in black. Small vases of white roses were carefully placed, while the blood red rose petals and black feathers scattered along the center of the tables added a whimsical touch.
Lilly + the Rose farm to table catering provided a dinner to die for! First course was a roasted tomato bisque which not only pleased the palate but also became a topic of conversation among party guests. My dinner selection was a 7oz certified Black Angus short rib (28-day aged, grass fed, antibiotic free beef) served on a bed of PVF garlic mashed potatoes, topped with a demiglace, steamed with baby organic spinach. It was perfectly cooked, and dare I say one of the best meals I’ve experienced in a very long time.
Entertainment began the moment we arrived and continued all evening. Pop up plays-vignettes from our favorite fairy tales were performed by actors throughout the venue. Whether it was Little Red Riding Hood dueling the evil wolf early in the evening or the elaborate performance reenacting Sleeping Beauty’s First Awakening: (Tchaikovsky). The performers, opera singers, and classically trained ballerinas exceeded all expectation. As the party ramped up, guests made their way to the dance floor where they got their groove on and danced to the beat of their favorite Halloween inspired music.
Now to my favorite part, let’s talk about fashion! “All Hallows Eve Dark Faerie Tale Masquerade Ball” was a black tie affair with an option to wear a fanciful mask or elegant fairy tale costume. I was enthralled with what I saw and impressed by the thoughtfulness and detail guests placed when choosing party themed attire. A few appeared to stand out of a storybook. Scroll down for some of our party favorites…
RIGHT UP MY ALLEY!
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Let me start by telling you about my love of Halloween.
I am the type of girl who insists on dressing up, wig and fake eyelashes included, and attending any and all events where a costume is required.
Back in the day, I used to throw Halloween parties so big, that we would have to remove all the furniture from the first floor of my home to make room for the DJ and all of the 100+ costume-clad party goers.
One friend who came to several of my parties and always impressed me with his over the top costumes was Tas Steiner (Seen at left):
When Tas told me about the Dark Faerie Tale Masquerade Ball and that he was chairing the event, I did what came naturally…
I ran out to purchase my first pair of black faerie wings and told my boss, I would be taking a personal day.
The Dark Faerie Tale Masquerade Ball was to benefit the SaratogaArtsFest Fridays. This ball is their largest fundraiser. The proceeds of this event enables individuals of all ages, income and background to enjoy free performances held four times a year, at different performing arts venue or art spaces in Saratoga. These wonderful opportunities include “live performances, visuals arts, and hands-on activities”, to just name a few.
The next Arts Fest Friday will be “You Oughta Be in Pictures,” which will be held at the Falstaff’s on Skidmore campus. This event will be held on November 10th and will include the silent film, The Camera Man with Buster Keaton, Old Time Cabaret Band and Singers, live music sing-a-long, virtual reality experience and a cash bar and hors d’oeuvres.
Like these amazing art filled Fridays, the Dark Faerie Tale Masquerade Ball did not disappoint when it came to theatrics.
I was greeted at the doors of the Canfield Casino by a muted masked man holding a lantern. Once inside my hand was taken by the dark queen, adorned in a black cap and a gold thorn crown. She led me through a makeshift forest of twigs and trees all wrapped in twinkly lights.
I was then set free, and my senses were overwhelmed.
My taste buds were greeted by the champagne handed to me as my ears were alerted to the laughter of the room filled with fellow masked party goers.
While my eyes were adjusting and focusing on the dimly lit room, I noted Red Riding Hood running through the crowd being followed by the wolf.
True to the Arts, this ball had surprising yet perfectly planned “shows”. A few of my favorites were the pop up duel between Red Riding Hood and that nasty, nasty Big Bad Wolf… with clashing metal swords and angry menacing shouts. I loved noticing Cinderella, tattered, dirty and placed perfectly in the corner sulking all alone scrubbing tables. The mini acts were presented not only during the cocktail hour but also throughout the night and truly made this an immersive experience and a standalone event.
As the cast of characters led the crowd into the main ballroom the true show began. Thanks to the vision and mastery of Sidney Martin from Simply Sidney Floral, the grand room was transformed into a scene from a Grimm’s Faerie Tale.
Gothic calligraphy name cards adorn the 4 long tables, each with their own theme and motif. My table, the ‘evil queen’ (go figure) was stunningly decorated with massive silver candelabras, dressed with black feather boas that slithered around the table.
Black photo frames with various haunting images mingled with small clear glass jars of white roses drizzled with red rose petals along my table. In front of me was roasted tomato bisque deliciously prepared by Lily + the Rose with a perfectly placed “edible eyeball” of crème fraise topped with a sliced olive.
As I savored my short ribs, I amazed at the uniqueness of this experience and let my mind wander to what the future masquerade balls could entail and how excited I was to be part of it.
My favorite moment of the night was when a young lady slowly and hauntingly walked down the aisles singing Think of Me, from Phantom of the Opera. This happens to be one of my favorite Broadway songs, and while I became mesmerized by her pitch perfect voice, I was transported to another place.
When the applause died down and I had wiped away my tears,
I was reminded why the arts are so important.
They showcase talents and expressions of selves to anyone – anyone that will let go – and become immersed in the moment.
I can’t paint, sing or play an instrument, however tonight I was part of the arts, thanks to the Dark Faerie Tale Masquerade Ball, and, of course my black glittery wings.
ONCE UPON A MEGA PHOTO GALLERY…
Spread your artistic wings and visit saratogaartsfest.org/
Photos: Arthur Gonick
November 3, 2017