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Our View: Fate of popular ball remains to be seen

Our View
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The Auburn Chamber of Commerce recently announced that it will again host the both popular and criticized Black & White Ball this September in the form of the Black & White Affaire. The once annual event drew over 6,000 at its peak in 2003 as it invited party-goers to eat, drink and dance on the streets of Auburn. The party was the Chamber’s main fundraiser of the year and allowed local nonprofits to raise money for their cause. However, for some the event wasn’t a time to shake their tail feather or kick back a few cervezas. Accounts of out-of-control drinking, driving under the influence arrests and public sex have been cited as several reasons why the ball shouldn’t be a part of Auburn’s events calendar. This year, the Chamber plans to scale back the event by capping ticket sales and proposes a more demure party style. How will it all shake out? The fate of the ball could very well rely on its success or potential lack thereof in its comeback year. And a big part of that will be community response. In its 18-year history, the Black and White Ball had its highs and lows. From highlighting more than 50 bands to law enforcement making 30 DUI arrests in one night, the ball has provided ammunition for both sides to argue for its continuation or its end. In 2009, the Chamber announced it would stop the party due to high costs during a bad economy and a relatively poor turnout of just over 3,000 when the event was moved to the Gold Country Fairgrounds. Now the Chamber has said it will move forward with reviving the ball, but with modifications. The guest list will be capped at 2,000 and sponsors will have first dibbs at handing out tickets to who they’d like to come. Remaining tickets will be available to the general public about a month before the mid-September event. In addition, they’ve moved the event’s location back to Downtown, but in a different part of the district. The boundaries of this year’s ball stretch from the clock tower on the corner of Lincoln Way and High Street down to the State Theater. This move will allow Downtown businesses on the Lincoln Way corridor above the clock tower to stay open during regular hours and take away the threat of party-goers potentially damaging or leaving trash in front of their establishments. Other changes include men must wear ties and there will only be one hard-liquor “signature drink” to accompany wine and beer locally produced. A scaled back event sounds like a good move in that it could reduce the need for extra security from public law enforcement and number of potentially impaired drivers taking to the road after a night of celebration. The Chamber should still make an effort to provide enough private security and shuttle service so the impact to our publically paid law enforcement is minimal. The new plan, however, does seem to have a flaw. Limiting the number to 2,000 people and then predicting that sponsors will give out all tickets before the public has a chance does make it feel like it will be a private party on a public street. Instead of the possibility of left over’s, at least 500 tickets should be set aside for the general public so those who are not as connected with sponsors still have the chance to join in on the new, and possibly improved, party that was a staple in Auburn for almost two decades. Then it will be up to attendees to make the most of the night. Have fun, kickback, enjoy the remaining remnants of summer weather in your Downtown but do so responsibly. Designate drivers, call cabs or whatever arrangement will work so you’re not driving impaired. Treat public property with respect so there are no complaints of damage. Then maybe Auburn will again have an annual event that gives neighbors a reason to celebrate in a classy yet fun and vibrant way.