Friday, February 22, 2013

A Dose of Dress-Up Will Do You Good

I've spent a lot of time in this town.

This is the town I spent my formative years.  All the high school trials and tribulations, the college summers, the holidays and the family functions, scenes all set with this city in the background.  So I like to think I had a good grasp on the goings on.

Realizing I was wrong... that there is so much more lurking in the corners of every neighborhood.  It is the best kind of gift.

As it turns out.   During the Depression, for reasons I don't fully understand and can't quite wrap my head around, the city of Omaha decided to begin a tradition.  This tradition, known as the Aksarben Ball, is a mascarade of rediculous porportions.  A man and woman - often a strange combination of old, slightly creepy/crotchity CEO or otherwise rich and powerful businessman and super young, beautiful, wealthy, and freshly-outed-into-society debutante - are crowned King and Queen.  They are crowned and dress in regal attire - read: Cinderella style tights, crowns, capes and the like - and lead the crowd of adoring and affluent social hob-nobbers in an evening of opulence, formality, and, I'm told, dinner, dancing and a requisite, rather pricy cocktail hour.   Yes.  Conceived during the Depression.  Opulence.   Depression.  It makes perfect sense.  Every year, a large spread is devoted to this event of strange proportions in the local newspaper.  And as the old men get older and the debutantes get younger, a strange oog factor grows.

I am not the only one to notice the strangeness of this tradition.  Thirty-some years ago, a group of rebellious types decided that this town needed something to balance this celebration of glad-handing and self-indulgent society page makers.  And Groundhog Prom was born.

A full-fledged costume ball for the 21-and-over set, Groundhog Prom is everything the Aksarben Ball isn't.  Held in an old, unassuming ballroom in South Omaha, on or around Groundhog's Day every year, creativity in costume is encouraged - and anything goes.  It is an event that celebrates creativity, letting loose, and poking fun at all manner of social norms.  Full bar and a live band are the icing on the cake.

It's like the best halloween party you could possibly imagine - but with actual creativity reigning supreme, instead of the usual slutty-whatevers that have overtaken Halloween celebrations everywhere.  It is the perfect reason to dress up and dance the night away. It was everything I could have hoped for and more.

From the group of teachers who dressed as various Barbies and travelled in full boxes, no less, to the barrage of concussed Hillary Clintons, to the Giant Spaghetti Monster with working floodlights for eyes and the many monochromatic, numbered women representing 50 Shades of Grey, to the Ambiguously Gay Duo and the electrified jellyfish, to the used car lot tube dancer, Abraham Lincoln, and the beach bums who spent the entire evening together in their inflatable pool float.  Good times were had by all.  And while yes, Groundhog Prom royalty are crowned and festooned with meaningless rights and responsibilities... this event holds none of the pomp and circumstance of its inspiration.  

By its very nature, GP is about letting loose, forgetting the rules of society, and going wherever your spirit takes you.  It's a downright freeing and friendly experience - minus the strange man who hit me on the leg, hard and repeatedly, with the tie of his coat and the woman who was dressed completely normally - except, of course, for the bulging dildo sticking out from the front of her pants... but who cares about them when you're having fun?    

And next year, I'll be smart enough to wear flats.  

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