Winter Formal: Booth’s Signature Event

As I type this, my browser is full of open tabs for Rent the Runway and Lulus.com. My fiancé just dropped by the mailroom to pick up the velvet bow tie he bought online. Partners around the country are booking flights to Chicago, and phones throughout MPP (the condo building where the majority of Boothies live) are buzzing from group chats discussing pregame destinations.

It’s that time of year again. Booth’s biggest event of the year, Winter Formal, is less than three weeks away! Boothies and their partners are dusting off the gowns and tuxedos they bought for a wedding three years ago because “I’ll definitely wear it again.” First Years are finally unpacking those stylish blue or grey suits and patterned ties that Investment Banking Group (IBG) and Management Consulting Group (MCG) wouldn’t let them wear during recruiting. I thought I would channel my excitement into reliving some memories from last year’s gala.

Annie Pemberton (2Y) and Ben Zimbel (Partner)

As a collaboration between the Graduate Business Council (GBC) and Giving Something Back (GSB), Winter Formal is an annual event held each February at an iconic Chicago museum. GBC organizes the party itself while GSB organizes a concurrent and extremely popular silent auction. Last year, over 1,000 (!) Boothies and their partners took over the Museum of Science and Industry, featuring an open bar, buffet dinner, ice cream bar, so many fun exhibits that I nearly got lost, both a photo booth and professional photographers, a DJ, and a never-empty dance floor.

With how hectic life is at Booth, it seems impossible to get all of your friends in one place at one time. Until now. Winter Formal is the ultimate opportunity to get your crew (Random Walk squad, Ski Trip housemates, interview family, you name it!) back together for a swanky night of partying in style.

Back row: JP Lauz, Roi Kessler, Parker Condie, Eric Rauner, Jon Law, Mohamad Atassi
Front row: Pato Smith, Stephanie Staton, Masha Bovkun, Sarah Liu, Yiqi Li, Reggie Watts

Meanwhile, GSB’s silent auction raised an impressive $24,000 for three local Chicago charities nominated and voted on by Booth students: Deborah’s Place, Cara, and VOCEL. Over 60 packages were auctioned off last year, including donations from Booth students, student clubs, and local businesses.

Some of the most popular packages are the ones hosted by Booth professors and Deans! Current second year student Eric Rauner recalls, “A highlight of last year was the chance to bid on events with professors that provide opportunities to get to know our favorite Booth figures in a setting outside of Harper. Six of us bid for a dinner hosted by Professor Shapiro, where he welcomed us to his house in Lincoln Park. The food was accompanied by a selection of wines brought to the US by his family’s import business. While the food and drinks were special, the best part of the evening was Prof. Shapiro entertaining us with candid discussion for many hours after dinner was supposed to end.”

Back row: Dan Eidell, Sam Fox, Domenic Rizzolo, Jon Blough, Ben Zimbel, Alec Klassen
Front row: Sarah Liu, Katie Fox, Kate Sercombe, Jenna Blough, Annie Pemberton, Rachel Salvador

Kate Sercombe and her then-newly-elected GSB co-chairs teamed up to win a coveted dinner with Dean Stacey Kole. She says, “It was a really unique experience to spend time with Dean Kole and Professors Epley and Hurst outside of a classroom setting. We talked about our families, their lives as academics, the experience from both sides of Booth, and more. Getting to know professors on a more personal level has been one of my favorite parts of Booth, and this dinner—and many like it at the Charity Auctionoffer great ways to do that.” 

Looking ahead to this year, Kate gave me a sneak peek of a few items up for auction. Some of my favorite new packages include the outdoor afternoon with Profs. Epley and Goolsbee (learn how to shoot a crossbow!), the 5-8 course meal with wine pairings for four people from Paul Weichselbaum & Jason Nong, and the gift certificate for 3 free nights of boarding with Tucker Pups.

While many of our other favorite events—from Spring Fling to weekly Thursday night bars to the Colombia spring break trip—draw crowds of a few hundred students, these all pale in comparison to the size of Winter Formal. You’re reminded of the sheer awesomeness of the Booth community when you can’t make it back from the bar to the dance floor without stopping to catch up with someone every few feet, or better yet being introduced by a mutual friend to even more cool people.

This year’s Winter Formal will be held on Saturday, February 15 (overlapping with both Valentine’s Day and President’s Day), making it easier for long-distance partners to attend. Alex Lathe is engaged to current second year Sean Madison but living in St. Louis while she studies for her Doctor of Audiology at Washington University. She shares, “Winter formal last year was a great opportunity to visit Chicago and dress up while meeting so many of Sean’s classmates and their partners! Can’t wait to do it again at a new venue this year!”

Alex Lathe (Partner) and Sean Madison (2Y)

This year we’ll be partying at The Field Museum, another one of the most famous museums in Chicago, where most exhibits will be open to guests. Whether you decide to hit the dance floor or escape to an exhibit wing for a bit of quiet and conversation, there will be something for everyone. I’ve got my ticket, I’ve picked out a dress, now all I have to do is pick a time to gather my friends at the photographer’s booth.

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