The big event of the Encampment at English Camp is the Candlelight Ball on Saturday night. All of the living history people come as well as people from the community and tourists who found out about it over the weekend.
The Ball is held in the Barracks, which is also the Visitors Center. On Monday nights, through the summer, we have Contra dancing in the Barracks with a live band. Contra dance is similar to square dancing with called patterns, lots of changing partners, repetition, and foot-stomping. I tried it the first Monday night but got dizzy from how fast the men spun me in the patterns. The dancing is hard enough without being dizzy! The live band also played at the Ball.
Plenty of people enjoyed the Contra dancing at the Ball. We had well over 100 people packed into the hall. Many of the tourists came to “just watch” but ended up dancing and having a ball! One group of college-aged kids danced the whole evening, enjoying switching partners and learning how to do the dances. I especially enjoyed seeing the mix of modern clothes with uniforms and dresses from the 1860’s.
Val and I served cake and punch. The punch was ginger ale, seltzer water, and frozen raspberry lemonade. Very simple but cold and wet, which was appreciated. The carrot cake was delicious and the size of the pieces got larger as the evening went on and we tried to use it up. We ran out of punch and carrot cake at the very end.
Tom and I and Val and Johnny worked the Ball. We went to work at 5 p.m. and hung bunting and lanterns in the Barracks. We stayed to clean up afterward. Our clean-up was more challenging because there aren’t any lights in the barracks. Once we took down the lanterns, we couldn’t find anything! We decided to clean up what we could and save the rest for daylight the next day.
The Candlelight Ball was a wonderful evening of fun and dancing. The dancers got hot with so many of them in the small room, but they could step outside to enjoy the cooling evening breeze. As the laughter and music faded at the end of the evening, it was almost as if the ghosts of the soldiers and their guests were moving around us.