Revy Masquerade Ball: Come one, come all, to the greatest show on Earth

A message from the Ringmaster of Revelstoke's Masquerade Ball.

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The circus comes to town in this Revelstoke Museum & Archives historical photo.

This March 11, become an acrobat of the dance floor and get magnificent like the un-tamed stars of the animal kingdom. Hula-hoop in Spandex, dazzle like a trapeze swinger or treat your-self to a really tall hat. Carnival folk, walkers of tight rope, juggling jesters, masked misfits and mystics unite. The circus is the town.

Romeo and Juliet met at a masquerade ball, and since the birth of the Venetian carnival scene in the 15th Century partygoers around the world have celebrated, reinvented and passed down the art of masked night. Costume, is in fact a Heritage Minute still going strong straight from our community’s own memory bank.

2017 Masquerade Ball organizer Sarah Peterson dressed as the ringmaster for the circus theme. Photo: Sarah j Spurr

Revelstoke Museum & Archives curator Cathy English shares a beautiful collection of visual evidence from a time when masquerade parties became a colourful part of our early social, cultural legacy. Dating back to the early 1900s, accounts from the annual fireman’s ball were described in great detail each year by The Revelstoke Mail-Herald newspaper. The Second Street opera house and various halls across town were transformed into decorative ballrooms where orchestra or band led dance parties went late into night.

“Shortly before ten o’clock to the music of ORRS Orchestra, the Grand march was led off by Floor Master Rl Gordon, about sixty couples falling in line — a vision of kaleidoscopic beauty was presented to the onlookers as the many gorgeous and brilliant costumes of all the ranks and periods mingled in the maze of the dance.” – The Revelstoke Mail-Herald, 1913

Masquerade balls have been part of Revelstoke for over a century. Here, the 1911 Firefighters’ Masquerade Ball. Photo: Revelstoke Museum & Archives image

Fast forward to today, Sarah Red Peterson, our Ringmaster to the 2017 masquerade main event, is perched over a pear-topped muesli in the window spot of Dose Cafe.

It began with a cross pollination of ski town cultures, she tells me. A group of migrants like herself moved here from the Whistler party scene in the early years of Revelstoke Mountain Resort. They brought their tickle trunks and in some cases tickle closets with them. They were feeling the nostalgia for good times with familiar faces grooving to that Whistler sound. DJ friends would travel for a weekend escape to Revy, where they could entertain for a fresh and crafty crowd, dressed to entertain them in return.

Sarah has been organizing the event at the Traverse since taking the torch from the original three inspiring years of parties led by original floor master Kit Redhead. Previous themes hosted by Sarah include Woodland Legends, Space, and Jungle boogie. This year for the seventh time, the stage has been re-set for a human powered Circus. Sarah credits each year’s success to the diversity and creativity of its attendees and encourages you to prepare in advance by hosting an evening of mask making, costume building, and crafting with your friends.

A mask by Sarah j Spurr from the 2016 jungle-themed event. Photo: Sarah j Spurr

“I remember this one couple at the Masquerade in Space, that weren’t even in masks [which is generally a no-no]. They were just sitting at the bar, with costumes that were just so minimalistic, yet future superior. The chick had bleached blonde hair that was spiked straight out to one side. To this day I still wonder if they heard about the party at a restaurant from the end of the universe — and decided to make the bazillion light year trek to the party.”

That same year Whistler’s dearly-loved DJ and visionary artist Chilli Thom had come back for more. As if by an extension of his presence, brought a homemade video montage of old space movies to project over and over in half hour loops for each of the DJ sets. The most memorable moments are made possible by the level of imagination you can pull together and bring with you for the night.

“Unmasking was a source for endless amusement as characters were revealed. Soldiers mingled with Oriental beauties, coy peasant girls made eyes at dashing cavaliers and cowboys, while clowns, fairies, mythical goddesses, Scotchmen and Turks, suffragettes and statesmen, took life together as happily as can be. This was the Socialist’s dream and the beginning of the millenium, when people of all nations, languages, colour, speech and creed were hobnobbing together on pleasure bent.” —The Revelstoke Mail-Herald, 1909

This year, three headlining acts will take you through a parade of electric powered Circus House. Featuring Whistler imports, DJ Surgeon and Whitness and Revelstoke’s own DJ Wesside.

Think: Legendary, Entertaining, Bizarre

Traverse is your Big Top for the evening. Ticket Booth is located at Skookum Ski and Cycle.

$15 each/ 19 +. Saturday March 11. No mask – No Boogie.

Find the Facebook event page or follow @traverserevy for updates. Visit the Revelstoke Museum & Archives to learn more about what makes us unique and check out the full selection of Brown Bag History talks hosted every other Wednesday at revelstokemuseum.ca.

This article first appeared in the Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine March 2017 print issue.

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Sarah Spurr
Sarah j Spurr moved west five-anda-half years ago from Kawartha Lakes, Ontario. My own world expands when I tread further, exploring new physical challenges alongside creative outlets. Here, I’m interested in connecting with others to showcase how they allow their own special blend of originality to flow. Living in the thick of this mountain environment what are you creating? Where does it stem from? Your story is soul food for the rest of us.