Stately soirée: Student Assembly holds annual Royal Ball for elevated end-of-year celebration


Friday, April 19, students congregated in the towering tent on the Sunken Garden to dance the night away at this year’s Royal Ball. In addition to the food and dancing, President Rowe made her yearly toast, and the a capella group Passing Notes performed the College’s Alma Mater. The ball serves as a social capstone to the year before the push of finals and graduation, and it is a last dance for the seniors ending their time at the College of William and Mary. 

Organizing this year’s Royal Ball was Taylor Fox ’24, who served as Student Assembly vice president until the inauguration of the Sloane-Lazo team last Monday. One goal of the Royal Ball is to provide students with an elegant event option, Fox explained.

“You have your fun little parties that you go to, date parties, different things like that. But what is an event that we can provide an upscale ambiance for students that’s free to them? And I think Royal Ball really hits that marker,” Fox said.

Creating an all-inclusive environment that allows students to experience an elevated dance setting, similar to that of a high school prom, was a central goal of organizers. Attendees like Marlene Brasco ‘27 appreciated the environment the SA team worked hard to cultivate. 

I wanted to go because I heard about it since the beginning of the year, and I was sad leaving high school that there wouldn’t be any other dances, but then I found out about the Royal Ball,” Brasco said.

The Ball presents a large logistical challenge, as the event requires a live DJ, group photo equipment, a dance floor, catered food, outdoor furniture and of course, the very large tent, all of which must be both set up and taken down in a short timeframe, as the Royal Ball follows the popular senior wine and cheese night the evening prior. 

“We come in, clean up very quickly, get everything set up, and then the next day this tent will be taken down,” Fox said. 

This year being her second time organizing the ball, Fox utilized her experience from last year to streamline this year’s event. 

“Last year it took us maybe two months of planning, working with advancement to secure the tent and furniture and different things like that to make sure that we’re on the same page,” Fox said. “This year was much more smooth sailing because we know what we’re doing.” 

Fox’s ambitions of creating an upscale atmosphere extended to food selection, with this year’s Ball marking the start of a partnership with the on-campus service 1693 Catering, run by the College’s newly minted dining supplier Aramark. 

“We are so grateful for Aramark, and really working with Adam Poling who is the manager of all dining at William and Mary. He has been responsive, ready to answer, willing to fix issues and just really been on the ball with us, working with us,” said Fox. “I think it’s really been a great experience working with [1693 Catering] and they have not disappointed us yet.”

Sen. Sean Nguyen ’24, member of the Royal Ball committee and self-proclaimed “fondue master” shared Fox’s satisfaction with the new catering team. He focused his approval particularly on the fondue options he helped to present this year. 

“There are so many university sanctioned events, and I don’t think there’s a single one that features fondue as a centerpiece of the food and beverages,” Nguyen said. “So I thought that ‘fondue to the people’ would elevate the social experience and the ability for the overall classiness and quality of the dance and celebratory activities.”

Rain fell intermittently both prior to and during the earlier stages of the event, concerning some event organizers about attendance levels. Despite this setback, attendance recovered as the event continued. 

“Our objective is just to have a really strong turnout,” Nguyen said. “Just within the first hours, we’ve seen well over 200 individuals already in attendance, likely to explode over the next few hours, so I’m excited to just celebrate with students through dance and good fondue.”

Bringing together the campus community under one roof can be a daunting task, but the magnitude of the Royal Ball achieves this like no other event. Nguyen found the creation of a shared experience to be particularly rewarding. 

“It’s always very exciting to be a part of this formative committee, because we get to see the realization of what I consider William and Mary’s most valuable event, because there is no opportunity to gather all the students in a shared space at the end of the school year,” Nguyen said. 

Fox remarked that SA has provided her with an opportunity to share her expertise in event planning with the campus community, after initially discovering her passion for event planning by assisting with her grandmother’s side business while in high school. 

 “I’m so thankful for my grandmother because she really introduced me to what it means to make your space your own and amplify the experience through what you have on the table,” Fox said. “I think I loved what she did so much because service, acts of giving, is how I show my love and my care, and I think that’s how I show my love and care to William and Mary students.”

For seniors like Fox and Nguyen, the ball is one of the last events they will attend before graduation, as it signals the end of their time at the College. Fox expressed both appreciation for her time in SA and relief at the conclusion of a job well done. 

“Royal Ball is my official last obligation,” Fox said. I think my greatest joy has come from seeing students with a smile on their faces. I was looking at the pictures last year for Royal Ball, and every single person had a smile on their face in every single picture, and I was like: that’s what matters. And I think that’s why Student Assembly does the things that they do.”


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