Sunday, October 30, 2011

Farewell, For Now: The Elms Halloween Ball

It was a dark and stormy night when we trudged the path to the shadowy hotel on the hill....oh, who am I kidding? It was a thoroughly pristine sunny and 70 when we pulled into the parking lot of the Elms Resort and Spa to prepare for the Halloween Ball. This costume party was not only the culmination of one long, strange trip of a day (the rest of which will be recounted in future posts so that this one can land on Halloween) but the last Hurrah before the hotel closes for a mighty five-month-long renovation.

Several of the powers-that-be among the Elms management would have preferred that the hotel slip away for its closing in a somewhat more sedate fashion but true to Elms form, the evening proved to be a signature blend of the sublime and the ridiculous. While Keith joined the management team in supervising the scariness, I moved about the hotel to photograph this last, lost weekend. Surveying the madness, I soon realized this last blast was the perfect send-off until the Elms begins its new life in a few months.

When we arrived, the lobby was already in motion as a wedding ceremony prepared to commence at the gazebo on the back lawn. The lovely bride entered from the elevator and joined her attendants to head for the winding pathway leading to the gazebo. The Regent ballroom was beautifully appointed for an autumn wedding reception...the ornate head table with roaring fireplace as backdrop; jars of homemade apple butter set up as favors for the guests; the stunning cake table as centerpiece for the room. The ceremony looked gorgeous as the bride took her place by the groom in the soft light of hanging lanterns and the setting sun. Soon, as the night's chill began to settle in, the wedding guests returned to the lobby for cocktails, appetizers and steaming cups of hot apple cider to the stirring sounds of the string trio in the corner.

As this serene scenario was unfolding, the guests for the Halloween Ball were also beginning to enter the lobby, some in costume. Author Janet Reed was set up in the lobby to do a signing of her recently written book about the local ghosts and ghostly history called Excelsior Springs: Haunted Haven. The dining room staff, decked festively in pirate gear, welcomed the guests for dinner before the big event. Slowly, but surely, the guests in their costumes began to descend the marble staircase in their outfits...a vampire couple, a nutty professor, the Mario Brothers. The first of several ghost tours was gathering in the lobby near the bar, preparing to visit what was considered the "most haunted" areas. Keith and Jenai (channeling Waldo) were set up at the entrance to the Grand Ballroom, ready to invite guests for fun with tarot cards and a Ouija board. Inside the Grand, the band Miss Major and her Minor Mood Swings were doing sound checks on stage as the bartenders, including Marlene in her Danica Patrick Nascar best, were setting up amongst the coffin-and-skull decor.

As the twain continued to meet in the lobby, the energy circulating from the intermingling of these two disparate groups was almost seemed there was much potential for disaster as the various guests continued to move about. All was well, though, as the wedding party were lined up outside the Regent preparing to be announced. The glowing bride and her groom were finally announced into their reception as the Ball guests continued to arrive from elevator and staircase. As the doors to the wedding closed behind the party, the string trio left the lobby and Miss Minor, in full Elvis regalia, arrived to lead her band to kick off the Halloween Ball festivities. The lobby, dining room and patio, and ballroom were starting to fill with elaborate costumes. Outside, a lighted horse-drawn carriage picked up passengers for a leisurely ride about town.

In my time as Elms associate and friend, I have witnessed a few Halloween parties there. The Halloween Ball was once a storied event but the past few years, this particular boo bash has struggled to find its identity. I don't know what inspiration lit up the guests this year, but the costumes were outstanding. Could it be that this final bash for five months sparked a creative fire amongst the guests? Whatever the reason, it was clear that imaginations ran wild as the costumes became more elaborate and diverse. Homer and Marge Simpson arrived as a dazzling Mae West strolled past. Homer then sat for a beer with a gorilla. Many a flapper and dapper gent were present; seeming to recreate the Elm's bygone era of bathtub gin and cigarette holders. Trippy tribes from Alice in Wonderland danced by and a clanky suit of armor emerged from the men's restroom. Zombies shuffled past and a man with an eerie shrunken head stumbled down the stairs. Troy and Sarah arrived; he a regal vampire and she a vamping and sexy spy. A couple of real cops, acting as security, mixed in and the lobby took on a seriously surreal sheen.

Both ballrooms at this point featured dance floors packed with revelers and the party was in full swing, end to end. I thought the Elms was getting a fitting farewell weekend; it was truly alive with unique energy. Even for us, the night ended with perfect cap for the evening....our old Director of Operations and beloved host of monthly Sunday night wine tastings John Glenn paid a surprise visit. It was great to see him, even in disguise as Two-Face and accompanied by his new squeeze, dressed as the Joker. We met his friends, including one who made for a hilarious Lt. Dangle from Reno 911. I even got cuffed by Lt. Dangle...and now the night was complete. We took our friends Stacy and Chris to the Truman Boardroom to see the renovation renderings and soon we finally made our way home; still humming from all the excitement.

Way to go out with a bang, Elms crew! We anxiously look forward to the month of April, when your next chapter will unfold.


Anonymous said...

Oh my.....sounds like such a grand time!! JB and I were both "eerily" taken aback by the photo of the woman in the orange jacket, shades and black scarf. Somehow, this pix looks a lot like me! Did I make a surprise appearance? And if so, why was I snarling? lol

Kaki and JB

Confounded Cook said...

Kak, that was Miss Major, the lead singer of the band that night...she was snarling as she was channeling Elvis...and you're right, she does resemble you in this pic!

Lisa Mandina said...

Is the Elms closed in the winter? Where are you in a costume?

Confounded Cook said...

No costume for me,and the Elms is closed until April 1st for renovations.

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