The Longest Running Event of It's Kind in Canada!


When the first inaugural Clinton Annual Ball graced the New Year's Day of 1868, Clinton stood as a distant beacon of the British Empire, a whole 150 miles from Yale, the Fraser River's navigational terminus. This event predated both British Columbia's union with Confederation and the railway's pivotal role in connecting BC to the nascent Canadian nation. It was an era where journeys to the celebrated Clinton Hotel, the 'premier halt on the Cariboo Road,' involved sleighs, horseback, or foot treks. The hotel, under the stewardship of Mary and Joseph Smith alongside their associate Tom Marshall, was formerly known as the 47 Mile house until its 1862 acquisition by the trio. The inception of the Ball, orchestrated in the hotel's lobby by Mrs. Smith, was a beacon of light in the wintry expanse of what was then New Caledonia, little knowing its legacy would endure for over a century and a half.

The Ball's early editions were extravagant affairs, spanning a week with nightly dances. Admission was exclusive, invitation-based, prompting local women to meticulously plan for months. Their preparations included ordering elaborate gowns from locales as varied as Victoria, San Francisco, and even Europe, showcasing their elegance in an unmatched Cariboo setting.

image003.jpgReaching these initial Balls was often a saga in itself, marred by snow-blocked trails and roads, necessitating heroic rides and lengthy, multi-day journeys. The advent of the PGE Railroad to Clinton in 1914 simplified travel, making attendance less daunting.

Initially hosted in the Clinton Hotel, famed for its meticulously prepared log floors, the venue shifted to Mr. Bell’s spacious new warehouse in 1869 to accommodate the growing attendee list. Subsequent Balls found their setting in the then-new courthouse (established in 1892). By 1920, the Clinton Memorial Hall, erected by community volunteers as an homage to local Great War martyrs, became the permanent venue. Renowned for its unique maple hardwood spring floor, a rarity in Canada, it's said to buoyantly respond to the dancers' joy.

The Ball has withstood the tests of time: world wars, economic downturns, and significant demographic shifts. Although now condensed to a singular, splendid evening from its original multi-day format, its essence remains untouched. Each year, it revives the tradition of elegant gowns and fine suits, rekindling the spirit of a bygone era, as attendees dance the night away, continuing a legacy that's as enduring as it is enchanting.

As the years cascaded forward, the Clinton Annual Ball, rooted in the rich tapestry of the late 1800s, has continued to flourish, evolving into a symbol of resilience and community celebration. Each iteration of the Ball carried the torch of tradition, with the 150th anniversary marking a particularly resplendent chapter in its storied history. This milestone event saw the Clinton arena transformed into an opulent ballroom, a testament to the enduring allure and escalating popularity of the Ball. Close to 250 attendees, adorned in period-appropriate attire, gathered, their presence adding to the tapestry of history and elegance that the Ball represents. Distinguished guests, including political dignitaries, were transported to the venue in grand style, courtesy of the BX Express stagecoach from Historic Hat Creek, echoing the historical journeys of attendees in the Ball's early days.

The evening was a harmonious blend of tradition and contemporary celebration, with the proceedings commencing with a prayer and a parade of dignitaries, paying homage to the Ball's deep-rooted heritage. The dinner and subsequent dance, set to the melodic tunes of the Evergreen Drifters, encapsulated the Ball's spirit of conviviality and joy. The event not only celebrated the past but also recognized the contributions of community members who have been instrumental in nurturing the Ball's legacy. This blend of historical homage, community recognition, and spirited celebration ensures that the essence of the Clinton Annual Ball remains as vibrant and enchanting as it was during its inception, continuing to be a beacon of cultural heritage and communal pride