One late April evening in 2015, I was a freshman grabbing some dinner at the MSC on a study break. Finals were about to start, and I was already in my study grind. I noticed a group of seniors dressed to the nines: men in their best suits or Corps uniforms, ladies in formal gowns and high heels, each sporting a shiny gold Aggie ring on their right hands. Since I didn't go to Fish Camp, this was my first time learning of Ring Dance. I would soon learn that it was a formal event for seniors where they would step under the huge gold ring and turn their Aggie Rings out to face the world. It was the last stop before graduation, and an event to look forward to for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors alike.
On April 29th of this year was finally my turn to go to Aggie Ring Dance. I was beyond excited and bought the dress of my dreams (I had always envisioned myself in a white strapless gown at Ring Dance, and I found the perfect one.) We spent two hours getting ready, ensuring our hair, makeup, and nails would be perfect. Tickets were $59, or $109 for a couple, but that was of no concern to any of us since we'd all been looking forward to Ring Dance for years.
Unfortunately, Ring Dance was tremendously disappointing because of choices made by the event planners. It was totally unacceptable in almost every way, and without the reassurance that subsequent years will improve, I would urge our current freshmen, juniors, and seniors to instead plan a fun weekend trip with friends as their last hurrah instead of planning on Ring Dance.
The cost of the ticket was not excessive for what we had hoped for, but it was absolutely excessive for what we got. If the future Ring Dance planners can't improve the event, perhaps they would consider reducing the price of the tickets, or including some perks besides admission to the event and a wine glass, which is all I got.
My friends and I arrived fashionably late, probably 30-45 minutes after the doors opened. The room was way too large for the number of attendees, who were milling awkwardly about the perimeter. There was what appeared to be a garage band playing '80's hits off to one side. And there were some appetizers, the only free attraction of the evening, but they were stale and weird: "beef Wellington bites" and cheeseburger egg rolls served side by side, at room temperature. On the other side of the room were cold cut sandwiches, lukewarm and overly oily fried green tomatoes, and kebabs made of squishy cherry tomatoes, wilted basil, and mozzarella cheese that had been sitting out so long it had that hard rind on it.
The drinks were expensive enough to put Kyle Field on the first game day of fall to shame. Our group ordered various cocktails for $10-$13 each, and my Coors Light was $8.
After we halfheartedly consumed some appetizers, we decided to head upstairs to get pictures beneath the ring and turn our Aggie Rings around so that we could leave early and do something more fun later. When we got upstairs, we realized quickly that the event was not as poorly attended as it seemed from downstairs: everyone was upstairs in line for pictures. The line for the ring snaked back and forth as far as the eye could see. At the front was the famous big ring, of course, and several photographers dressed in black. Although the line was staggering, we reasoned that it couldn't take too long to snap a picture of each person or couple, so the line would probably move quickly.
Well, that didn't work out either.
It took two hours (I am not exaggerating) to get to the front of the line. Our feet ached, so we took off our shoes, but there was nothing we could do to stop our legs from aching from standing. Because the room was so crowded, it was hard to talk to one another. At first, we could see the photographers painstakingly positioning each person or couple and conducting in-depth consultations about angles. But by the time we were anywhere close, they were snapping pictures before the subject was even ready.
The last straw was that when we got close to the front, we were passed a form with a price list for photos. It was $20 to pay up front and have them email it to you, and they specified the price went up if you didn't buy it on the spot. I chose to buy my photo on the spot, but they took it before I was ready and never emailed it to me. I finally got curious, several weeks later, about where my photo was and went to the event Facebook page, where I quickly learned I was not the only one wondering where my picture was. In response to one post, someone commented with a link to the prepaid pictures. I scanned through hundreds of photos three times: my picture isn't there. My photo would be easy to spot even scrolling since I was one of the few people who took the picture alone, with no one else in it, and I was wearing a white dress (most girls opted for darker dresses.) My friends who opted to get an email later with the option to buy their photos never received that either. None of us are sure what to do, but unlike my friends, who didn't give these incompetent racketeers any money, I am out $20, which I don't appreciate at all. I'm pretty sure they snapped the photo while I was asking a question, so it probably isn't good anyway.
There was no time to turn our Aggie rings around underneath the ring, which is the tradition that Ring Dance literally exists for.
On the event page, we were told that the cost of the photo is included with your ticket. Not only is that not true but people who pay for the photo also don't even receive them (like me, for example.) If the photographer was struggling for business, which wouldn't surprise me, from what I saw, all they had to do was ask for donations, since that was what it effectively was. They shouldn't have pretended they were offering a service, because they weren't in my case.
I just honestly am so sad when I contrast my hopes for Ring Dance with the reality of what it was. Far from the culmination of a college career, a celebration of accomplishments, I just remember paying $59 to stand in line for two hours. My best friend was determined to make the best of the evening, so we made her husband take ridiculously posed, deliriously exhausted photos of us all dressed up around campus in order to make the best of a bad situation. For what we paid, we deserved to have a memorable and enjoyable evening that in no way entailed "making the best of it". It's just incredibly frustrating and not at all typical of this university to conduct events this way. Graduations and football games and Ring Days are always spectacular and efficiently coordinated.
Hopefully, the coordinators of Ring Dance for the class of 2020 can improve the event or lower the price, but without firm evidence that such will be the case, I regrettably must recommend to the class of 2020 that they instead celebrate their accomplishments by planning something fun with friends instead. Go camping, go wine tasting, or just celebrate at someone's home, and don't let the Ring Dance planners have any part in your weekend because if past experience serves, they'll just mess it up.