All Hallows’ Masquerade Ball celebrates 40 years with another night at the museum

By : Adam T. McLaughlin
Comments: 0

TAMPA – Fall is upon us. Pumpkin everything is everywhere. Halloween is right around the corner. And for many Tampa area LGBT folks, that also means it’s time to start getting prepared for the annual All Hallows Masquerade Ball. On October 15, the ball returns to a previous, popular venue,the Museum of Science and Industry. This year’s event is special, as the ball celebrates its 40th anniversary. Highlights of the anniversary event will include an open theme, the customary costume contest, and a special guest performer to entertain partygoers.

What started out as a Halloween house party forty years ago has grown into one of the biggest parties in the city for the holiday. The origins of the ball date back to 1976.The inaugural party was a held by a group of friends in the home of a local physician. Within a few years, the party was moved to private venues due to the number of guests. As the years went on, the guest list expanded. In the late ‘70s, the number was around two-hundred. Last year there were well over two-thousand attendees and similar numbers are projected for this year.

While the list of guests continues to grow and there are new attendees every year, many guests have been attending since early years of the party. Karl Barowski, a resident of Brandon, has been attending the ball for the past twenty-five years. “I’ve come back to the party every year because it has been a fun, safe place to celebrate and it gives me a chance to be creative.,” Barowski says. “I get to see everyone else’s creativity in a festive, friendly atmosphere.”

Dating back to 1981, each ball has had a specific theme for guests to follow. The theme for this year’s ball is Ruby Red, which was chosen due to the ruby being the 40th anniversary stone. Ruby Red allows for guests to choose any theme from past events. The original theme in 1981 was “Wild Wild West.”Other past themes include “Fractured Fairytales,” “Dystopia,” and “It’s a Small World.” Last year’s theme was “Seven Deadly Sins.”

A popular component related to the theme that continues this year is the costume contest. Many guests begin working on costumes immediately after the theme is announced in late summer. Costumes range from mild to wild. Some partygoers go with the literal theme and dress in costumes accordingly. Other guests go outside the box and put their own spin on the theme. A few guests are chosen to participate in the costumecontest. These participants are selected based on costumes that are relevant to the theme and also based on the creativity of the costume, as well as the detail of the costume. The contest winner is chosen by a panel of judges.

Various different venues have been utilized for the ball over the past four decades. These sites have included the Tampa Fairgrounds, Tampa Convention Center, and District 3, amongst others. This year’s ball will return to the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). MOSI was most recently a site for the event in 2014. Organizers felt MOSI provided more than adequate space and was a popular venue amongst guests.

“Attendance was overwhelming last year,” said “Casper,” one of the event hosts, who asked to remain anonymous for this article. “Some guests requested using MOSI again. Also, going back to a prior venue seemed to fit into the theme for this year.”

Attendees of the party will be treated to a special guest entertainer this year. Legendary drag performer Lady Bunny will DJ and perform at the Ball. Lady Bunny started her drag career in the early ‘80s and has become one of the most well-known drag performers in the country. In addition to her drag performances and DJ gigs at gay nightclubs and special events, Lady Bunny has appeared in numerous films, including Starbooty and To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar. She also had a role in an episode of Sex and the City.

For those that may not be aware, this party is considered a private, invitation-only event. Each year, those on the list are sent tickets and provided with information on the theme for the party. This event is privately funded. There are no sponsors or endorsements from companies or businesses. Guests are given invitations by being connected to one of the party hosts.

There are a few things to note for guests attending the ball. Guests must have cash on hand at the door for the entry fee. ATMs will be accessible inside the building to obtain cash to purchase drink tickets. However, there will not be any ATMs outside. Due to growing numbers, event hosts stated that only guests with a ticket with their name can be admitted.

The All Hallows Masquerade Ball has grown from a house party to an elaborate celebration that allows for creativity and bonding. The party provides a safe, social atmosphere for friends to rekindle friendships and make new connections within the gay community. It has become a Halloween staple in the Tampa area that will likely continue for years to come.

Share this story: