Last year was Laurel Christensen's third year at the University of Kentucky, but it was the first year she attended the Beaux Arts Ball.
Christensen, 22, left wondering why she had stayed away.
"I didn't know any of the music or the bands that were playing," the Anderson County native says. "But I had the time of my life."
A year later, Christensen is not only attending the party; she's throwing it.
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Entering its fifth decade, the Beaux Arts Ball masquerade is put on by the UK College of Design and is organized by student volunteers. There are new leaders each year, but there usually is some institutional knowledge at work.
"This year, everybody that did it in the past is gone," Christensen says. "They went away to grad school."
So she has gone to work making the time of her life into what she hopes will be the time of many other people's lives.
One of the things that makes the Beaux Arts Ball an annual challenge to organizers is that it moves every year from non-traditional location to non-traditional location. This year, it will be at the Pepper Warehouse on Manchester Street, just a few blocks from last year's venue, the Old Tarr Distillery. Shortly after the ball, the distillery opened as the new home of Buster's Billiards & Backroom, an anchor of the burgeoning Distillery District entertainment corridor.
"It was really successful last year," and the close proximity to Rupp Arena made parking for shuttle services fairly easy, Christensen says. "With the Distillery District and what they are trying to do there — and I think a lot of architecture students feel the same way — we would love to see our downtown revitalized and we want to support the Distillery District. It's the artsy kind of growth we'd like to see happen in Lexington."
She says that to bring the warehouse up to code for the event, the Beaux Arts organization had to install a new electrical system, which would help make it more desirable for a permanent establishment.
For the past several months, she has immersed herself in details of the Beaux Arts Ball and its traditions, such as supporting local non-profits. This year's beneficiaries are the Living Arts and Science Center, Art in Motion and the Foundation for Advanced Architecture.
She also has learned that the ball is treasured by many people in the community, not just students.
"I've had several people who are in their 50s tell me, 'I love the Beaux Arts Ball; I go every year.'" Christensen says.
There are, of course, marquee attractions, including a drag show, Gypsy dancers, and indoor and outdoor music stages. The acts include Sam La More, Dinosaurs and Disasters, and the Seedy Seeds.
"Someone pointed out that the thing about Beaux Arts is whenever you go to a bar or a concert or any big event, you're always going to have a bunch of people that are dancing, having a good time and doing their thing, and then you have a group that are standing off to the side, that are wallflowers just watching," Christensen says. "You don't get that at Beaux Arts. Everyone is having a good time, everyone is participating.
"It's so different from your typical night out in Lexington, and that's what makes it special."