The Donegal Ball has its Mary from Dungloe.
The Mayo Ball has its Miss Mayo.
Philadelphia’s Sons and Daughters of Derry just might have their Frankenstein. Or Dracula. Or any number of attendees in full Halloween regalia.
It’s no coincidence that the Derry Society has chosen to have a Halloween Ball and Costume Contest, scheduled for October 27 at 8 p.m. at the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center—aka the Irish Center.
While you might not know this, the city of Derry in Northern Ireland is the Halloween capital of the planet. It’s not just Philly’s own Sons and Daughters of Derry who say so. It’s Trip Advisor. It’s USA Today, which in 2015 pronounced the city of Derry the best Halloween destination in the world. (See for yourself.)
“It all started in 1986 as a kind of informal thing, but it has grown by leaps and bounds,” says Fiona Curran, president of the Sons and Daughters of Derry. “It really hit its stride when Derry was named the U.K.’s City of Culture. Derry goes all out.”
So, the Sons and Daughters of Derry were looking for a way to distinguish its ball from all the other county balls. A Halloween Ball with a costume contest draws on the city of Derry’s distinct recent Halloween history and really sets the Philadelphia Derry ball apart.
The Sons and Daughters of Derry had existed for several years, then disbanded for about 10 years, and then re-formed only a couple of years ago. A lot of the original members are still involved and helped bring it back together. It’s likely the smallest of the Philadelphia area’s county associations and societies.
“When we re-formed, we had socials and whatnot, but we saw a decline in people attending the socials. We were trying to find ways to host events that would engage everyone,” says the society’s Maureen Hayward. “We wanted everybody to come. We want to be able to celebrate the Sons and Daughters of Derry. We wanted to do something a little different because I feel like we’re a newer group.
“Everyone was looking for something new that would be fun and exciting. So, I think it was the best of both worlds, being able to celebrate the culture of Derry city, as well as celebrating the Irish Center portion of it.”
“We’ve been recharged,” adds Curran, “re-energized.”
Although many dressed up in Halloween finery for the first ball last year—from Scarlett O’Hara to Mary Poppins—costumes are optional. However, costumes proved so popular and fun that many people said they planned to join in the Halloween spirit the second time around, says Curran. “That’s the best compliment you can get.”
Around 150 attended last year’s ball, Curran says. The Sons and Daughters of Derry are hoping for more, based on the success of the first event.
There will be plenty of music from beginning to end, with live music from Lefty Kelly and Friends, and recorded tunes from DJ Billy Donahue. Light snacks will be provided, along with sodas, wine and domestic beers. (Drinks not included will be available at the center’s bar.)
The price of admission is $40.
As is only fitting at a costume ball, there will be a contest to decide winners in several categories, including most original, best overall, best small group or couple, and the funniest. Prizes include trophies and a refund of the admission fee. There will also be a raffle for a wheelbarrow of cheer.
For tickets, contact Fiona at (484) 716-1627 or Maureen at (267) 664-2158. They can also be reached at Derry.Society.Phila@gmail.com and our Facebook event is here: https://www.facebook.