Hogwarts at UWEC

Story by Emily Gresbrink

“The pleasure of your company is requested at the Yule Ball, where students of Hogwarts will socialize with their foreign guests from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang to celebrate Christmas and the Triwizard Tournament.”

While the invitation from the book and movie is a little different, the Yule Ball — held by the Student Ministry of Magic (SMM) — was held at UW-Eau Claire last Saturday in the basement of Sutherland Hall.

The ball was modeled after the wintertime formal dance from “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” In the book, the ball let students from three different wizarding schools socialize in the midst of the large Triwizard Tournament.

Student Minister of Magic and sophomore Eric VandenHeuvel never thought the ball would happen as quickly as it did.

“When we first started the club, one of our biggest goals was to get a Yule Ball on campus and we thought it wasn’t going to happen for two years (because of fundraising),” he said. “But, we had some friends from Sutherland who said they would help us put it on and they did so much to help.”

Members of the SMM donated food items and decorations, VandenHeuvel said. Food was served for free and included hot butterbeer, cupcakes and a chocolate fountain. Decorations were, of course, Harry Potter themed and included everything from shields from each house to brooms attached to the walls. The group also sold maroon and gold t-shirts and wristbands, which read “the boy who lived strong” (as a parody of Livestrong bands).

VandenHeuvel said that the SMM put approximately 12 hours into decorating and an overall 24 to 30 hours into the ball, although he said “it’s tough to put an estimate on it.”
Sophomore Natalie Pannemann, also a member of the SMM, said her favorite part was “getting to dress up and spend a few hours hanging out with other Harry Potter fans.”
Sophomore Rachel Schmidt went to the ball after a few friends told her about it. Schmidt is also a fan of the fourth book, so the real life Yule Ball for her “was awesome,” she said.

“I like it a lot! (It was) so fun,” she said. “The chocolate (fountain) was awesome, the food was great and I loved the decorations!”

While at the ball, students could play games of butterbeer pong, dance to a live DJ and mingle with other students donning their wizard-wear bests and ‘dress robes’. Additionally, students could play Harry Potter Scene It? and watch “A Very Potter Musical,” the hit YouTube musical parody of the movie series.

“I really enjoyed the Butterbeer Pong that was set up and thought that taking pictures in the cut-out posters of Harry Potter characters was a really great idea,” Pannemann said.
With the night bringing in dozens of students from all reaches of campus, VandenHeuvel said he and the SMM hope to make this an annual event. He added that other events similar to this could happen in the future as well.

“As a group, the Student Ministry of Magic had no idea what to expect when we decided to cooperate with Sutherland to put on the Yule Ball,” Pannemann said. “I would say that we expected a few people to show up, but certainly we did not expect the numbers of people that actually did.”

Pannemann added that when the ball started, the basement of Sutherland Hall was flooded with people and estimated that there were around 200 people there at 9 p.m.
VandenHeuvel agreed, the turnout and response was much more than he had originally anticipated.

“We did not expect to have it this packed,” he said. “I don’t even know how to put it into words. It’s amazing. I love it.”