Of The Swinger's Ball
(Originally Conceptualized and Produced
by Bill O'Brien and Riley Wimes Jr.February 14, 1998)
It is safe to say that The Swinger's Ball is the granddaddy
of all annual and major swing events, both big and small that has happened in Chicago's Lindy Hop community since swing's
revival. Aside from the Aragon Ballroom show that featured The Big Swing, Indigo Swing, The Rocket 88's and The Atomic Fireballs
in October of 1997, The First Annual Swinger's Ball, held at The (now defunct) Riverwest Brewery on February 14, 1998, was
the next major swing event to happen. With close to 500 people in attendance, Miss Midori spinning swing music at the band
breaks, The Riff Rockets (their full band) on the bandstand, Kristen Weinandt and Benjamin ? being named Queen and King of
the ball, Big Tyme Riley Wimes and High Flyin' Bill O'Brien knew they had started a special tradition.
While Riley and Bill originally conceptualized and produced
the "First" event, they at one time or another took less than principal roles in its' planning and final production. It was
pretty much a Bill O'Brien event in 1999 with a lot of assistance from Jeffrey Cannon as well as powerhouse promoter Brad
Altman. In 2000 Bill and Riley reunited and with their third partner, Jeffrey Cannon held the third event at Liquid "The Original
House of Swing". In 2001 Bill and Riley played a very limited role, while Jeffrey Cannon, Julee Mertz (Big City Swing), and
Evin Jacobson (Bluemoon Groove) combined wit, charm, and event experience, to pull together a great event held at Green Dolphin
Street, the swankiest venue thus far!
Two years ago the event went home once again. Jeffrey Cannon
and Riley Wimes Jr. produced Swingers Ball #5. The name was changed (to protect
the innocent) to Kustom and the interior was totally gutted and reinstalled as Liquid reinvented themself. What we received
was a deluxe, modern venue with superior sound and lighting and a neat place to have an annual event thanks to Sara and Dara
(Kustom, now Breathes management). Brienn Perry headlined this event. This building no longer stands and is now part of the
swing revivals most famous casualty.
The Sixth Annual Swingers Ball was held at The Willowbrook
Ballroom for the first time is its six-year history. Again it was produced by Riley Wimes and Jeffrey Cannon. It was the first
time the event was held outside of the citys interior and proved to be a winning combination. That event had the largest number
of attendees to date as well as great bands (The Rhythm Rockets, Douce Ambience, and Sam Burckhardt) and great dance demos
by Big City Swing, Alex and Maren, Margot and Riley, Jeepers Creepers, and Peter Betbasoo and Phoebe. The Willowbrook staff
and management were eager to assist and help make Swingers Ball Six the best it could be.
The Seventh Annual Swingers Ball was a real treasure. The
event which was solely produced by Big Tyme Riley Wimes and held at The Willowbrook Ballroom for the second year in a row,
took off as The Riff Rockets featuring Jane Baxter on vocals really set the tone as the opening act. It was nostalgic in a
sense because they were the band that fronted our first event in 1998. The band led by Tom Costanzo looked really good in
their white tuxedo jackets and solidified a great vibe musically that would last throughout the evening. Nino, and his staff
from, www. mayIhavethisdance.com made the second room downstairs (a djd west
coast room) a great alternative and the ballroom upstairs more spacious. This was the first time The Swingers Ball was bi-level
and the feedback was very positive.
Great performances in Lindy and Charleston (Chaotic Rhythm),
West Coast Swing (Jim Becker, Nancy Tuzzolino and April Prince), Salsa ( Dora and Marco ), and Break Dancing ( Midwest Break
Dancing Coalition) and Stepping (The Magnifiscents) gave the event a depth that it never had and actually showed a chronological
history or evolution and connection from the swing era to our present day with all the performances except Salsa.
The real treat came when The Thomas Gunther Band took the
stage for the last two sets of the evening. While Thomas can carry an evening by himself, Deborah and her room trembling,
gospel-laden voice would prove to be the vital link between a good time and a great time. Outstanding and you should have
been there is all you have to say! While the attendance was slightly off from 2003, it was still one of the best attended
events of the seven.
These events have always been well received and promoted
by the community at large including Chicago Swing Half-Breeds (Nicolle Wood) and Swing-Out Chicago (Howard Bregman), Big City
Swing and Bluemoon Groove. It was through the use of Howard and Nicolle's massive mailing list that helped Bill and Riley
reach their market for the initial event. Promotional contributions from all Chicago groups and dance establishments has contributed
to the popularity of The Swinger's Ball!
The Swinger's Ball is an event that is broader than the scope of just dancing. It is about
styling ,attitude, sipping wine, cosmos, martinis and things. It is about conversation, hanging out, and being social. It
is about being with that someone special or treating yourself especially nice. A date is not necessary. This event has traditionally
had a lot of singles in attendance. In closing I will simply say Come One Come All to The 8th Annual Swingers Ball.