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Memphi Mid-Winter Ball

Midnight in Paris

Story by Bill Bannister | Photos by Don Perry

In a city steeped in history and tradition, one organization stands out as an important and positive force for good in the community, The Mystic Society of Memphi. The crew was founded 146 years ago and sponsored the original Memphis Mardi Gras celebrations of the 1800s, which through the efforts of its members rivaled anything in New Orleans.

In 1872, as was true for much of the South, Memphis was suffering from the devastation of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The city fathers thought that Memphis needed a show of civic pride that would bring the residents together for the common good and show the outside world that the city was alive and well. Thus was born Memphi, which held its first Mid-Winter Ball in February of 1873, beginning a tradition that continues today as The Mystic Society of Memphi proudly supports Carnival Memphis and the betterment of our community. 

The 2018 Mid-Winter Ball was held at the Memphis Country Club and was attended by 300 invited guests, who turned out in high style to witness the presentation of the krewe’s Duchesses and their Dukes by General Chairman and Master of Ceremonies Kirk Johnston. The evening’s theme was “Midnight in Paris” in honor of Ernest Hemingway’s time in that fabulous city. Miniature French flags adorned the rooms of the country club and guests raised their glasses in a toast to Hemingway and his life’s quest for adventure and joie de vivre.

As guests checked in, they could purchase special men’s cufflinks and ladies’ pearl and rhinestone pins, as well as a stunning replica of the invitation to the 1873 Mid-Winter Ball. Party-goers gathered in the grand dining hall enjoying libations from the fully stocked bar and hors d’oeuvres with an assortment of cheese and fruits to the jazz stylings of Misti Rae Holton and Jimmy Arnold.

Dinner was a feast fit for royalty that began with an arugula and lentil du puy salad with radishes, fennel and Dijon mustard vinaigrette followed by the main course of wood grilled filet of beef Rossini with apparet duchess potatoes and a madeira foie gras demi-glace. Dessert was a fabulous classic tarte tatin and caramelized apples with caramel sauce. After this sumptuous repast, the “party with a purpose” kicked into high gear as guests danced the night away to music by the premier party band of the Mid-South, Party Planet. In keeping with tradition, Memphi will present its King and Queen a later date. 

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