This Saturday, Oct 18, your friendly neighborhood ink slinging Detroit Paganism Examiner was allowed to cover the Michigan-Midwest Witches Ball, and what night it was. The Midwest Witches Ball Committee worked hard to create an amazing night for the Pagan community that included music, food, dancing, and pageantry. All the glamor and home spun fellowship that makes this truly the Pagan Prom for Metro Detroit. Since 1995, this event has been getting better and bigger.
The evening started with the reality dawning that once the threshold was crossed to the Royalty House, attendees were entering another world. Opening the wooden doors, one was immediately surrounded by festooned decorations that highlighted the costumed groups passing through the foyer. The “Into The Woods” theme was well represented by a league of Little Red Riding Hoods, Princes, Wolves, and more.
The first stop was the greeting by some of the friendliest event security staff this writer has encountered in a long time. All smiles and professionalism, they were extremely well organized and kept the event on track. Pagan Standard Time, that horrible bad habit that has acquired a name, had no foothold here. Strict enforcement of the over 21 policy assured that everyone could rest easy that the libations could flow fast and free with maturity ruling the decorum.
Seven o’clock was the magick hour, when the doors were flung open wide to allow the entering crowds to experience the beautiful live performance of local singer and songwriter Amy Saari. A talented vocalist, her dulcet tones and stylings blessed the hall with an unwordly quality. Emotion choked her at one point when she was thanking Gordon Ireland and the ball for featuring her. It was one of those moments where you remember that this is a real event for real people.
DJ John Bommarito then took over after her performance with a wild mix that included ambient, house, goth, oldies, and more. The dance floor rocked with line dances and hustles, as well as individual couples dances. One of the most spectacular highlights of the evening was when the spiral dance got so wild that it spilled into the hallway through one door and passed back into the dance hall through the other one. Watching those elated faces flash by in all their finery was amazing. The line seemed endless, as the whirl of perfumes and laughter created a palpable kef.
Admittedly, a goodly portion of that glee came from the open bar it can be assured. The colas and ambers flowed and flourished with dapper bartenders with quick and savvy service. Generous to the core, the community made sure these guardians of the grain arts had full tip bowls. And they deserved every dime. By including the open bar in the admission, it was a boon to tipping.
Reverend Gerrybrete Leonard of the Universal Society of Ancient Ministry was the hostess with the mostest. She served as Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening and was an absolute blast. She turned it out. She was witty, clever, sometimes irreverent, and had the crowd eating out of her hand. She very much owned her space and represented the board as a star. She entertained and went on this night’s journey with 440 attendees.
This year, the Michigan Pagan of the Year award was given a new name this year. It will now be known as the “The Merlyn”. And the winner was….Jacki Smith. Local business woman and philanthropist witch, she is a beloved pillar of the community. Congratulations Jacki.
The crowning of the King and Queen was a jolly romp in hilarity. After the nominees were brought forth, the crowd watched as they competed in the obligatory limbo contest. That’s right, limbo, complete with dancing pole bearers. After a vote of applause, this year’s royalty was chosen as King Kyle and Queen Mardoll. Crowns donated by Witches of Michigan completed the ceremony. All hail the reigning royalty.
The board for the ball consists of Gordon Ireland, Paula Ireland, Arwen Starda, Gerrybrete Leonard, Patrick Leonard, and Andrea Priebe-fields. These are the people who made this happen. But also not to be forgotten are the legions of volunteers, the generous vendor sponsors , the well wishers, and the attendees who came together to create a special moment in time that allowed everyone to rejoice and celebrate life and each other. The staff at the Royalty House must also be counted among this number, as their service and facilities were superb. And the polished working of Toby Wolf of Back 9 GraFX for the Sponsor Banners was top notch.
The sparkling crowd was able to preserve the moments through the mastery of event photographer Glenn Brown of Tri Dragon Photography. Shots of individual instances to remember found him expertly documenting history through his lens. His striking images are well known throughout the area for their composition and the stories behind them. If you get a chance, try to catch one of his classes. His smudge class changed the life of this writer.
The spectacular altar for the event was provided by Wolf Run Wildlife & Spiritual Sanctuary. Based near Remus, Michigan, this charity and nature preserve generously hand fashioned at huge wooden altar box, complete with a wood burned wolf image and phases of the moon. The box itself was stocked with mead, glasses, herbs, blends, ritual tools, and a glass containers of magical goodness. Proceeds from the raffle for the altar went to The Michigan Pagan Scholarship. Stan Newcombe ( Grey Wolf ) makes a tall shadow in Michigan, as his tireless and selfless work through his Community Education Program and Environmental Awareness Program.
Pagans In Need was in the house, collecting for the charity at the event. Donations of canned goods and nonperishable items were in good hands when they were in charge. This organization has carried out its mission and changed the lives of countless here in Southeast Michigan with material, and other, support and services.
For the foodie in all of us, there was an endless spread of culinary yumminess. Savory and sweet, herby and tart, all palates could find something to satisfy. The vegetarians were not neglected either. In many events, they receive no consideration. The vegan palate was taken to include a good array of tastes. The addition of peppery notes was a welcome surprise. This was all followed by the sweet sensations of Master cake artists Kitchen Witch Creations, also lovingly known as the Biker Baker. For those of us getting married in the next year, this is definitely on the tasting list. This crew is humorous as they are talented and had this columnist laughing all night.
Because here in the Land of the Fresh Water Seas we take our safety seriously, the Ball provided shuttle service to the Baymont Inn & Suites from the event. By working together, the hospitality industry here was able to provide a good end to a great event, even going so far as to give a group discount rate for the affairs attendees. The goal was to stay alive on the drive, so those who needed it found it to be, quite possibly, a true lifesaver.
.Once the music was done, and the sweeping begun, many weary souls made their way back through the portals to the waiting night. The sound of laughter and the overheard plans for room parties filled the parking lot. And for a moment, it seemed that the parking lot lights seemed to make a halo around the venue as if to say “Well done”.
Next year’s theme will be Magick and Mayhem. The King and Queen shall return to hand over their rulership, and a new Michigan Pagan of the Year shall be chosen. And a new Pagan Prom will be upon us. Well done, everyone, well done.