After last year's party, they sent out a questionaire to vote on the next year's theme. The choices were "Las Vegas" and "Country". I voted for "Las Vegas". But, apparently, the voting was close, because the planners opted to do both.
The dress code was "country", meaning jeans, cowboy hats, boots, etc. It was not enforced. As a nice touch, the planners passed out plastic silver sheriff's stars and red or blue bandannas to all the attendees as we arrived. Being my usual clueless self, I totally missed this. Lut picked up a star for me, and one of the other guests offered me her bandanna, since she wasn't wearing it. I couldn't get the bandanna to look right, but wore it anyway. The cheap dye on it bled onto the collar of my shirt. Whoops. It mostly came out in the wash.
Lut and I dressed in black jeans, white shirts, and black suede vests. The silver stars went rather well with the ensemble. Lut thought his black shirt would've been better, but I disagreed. Anyway, the whole did not look as good as the formal wear of years past, but it was comfortable, which has to be worth something.
Except that it was cold. I don't know what it is about the holiday parties at this bank. Before the merger, we never had 'em, but since then, two of the three I've been to have been held in large cold drafty areas. This one was at a farm arena. A farm arena? C'mon, folks, I know it's part of the theme, but can't we have a nice heated convention hall or something? The arena was heated, and considerably more comfortable than the horseshows I've seen in farm arenas, but still. I went back for my coat in the middle of dinner. Brr!
The music was not country (the planner made a point of saying that after her first revelation of the theme :D ); mostly it was soft rock, with some swing and slow-dancing music thrown in. Usually, I dance -- I like dancing -- but this time I didn't, because there was actually other stuff to do. At a party! Imagine that.
Dinner was mediocre "country" food -- meat, corn, baked beans, stuffed potatoes, etc. Lut said the sausage was good; I wish I'd had some. The rest of it wasn't well-prepared. Probably same caterer as last year; not a real winner.
For the "Las Vegas" theme, they had gambling, using fake money for a real prize. Mostly it was blackjack, with a roulette table and a craps table. No slot machines, thank goodness. Slots are the dullest game known to man. The prize was $100 to whomever had the most chips at the end of the night. The "contest" was not well-managed in terms of fairness. Actually, no fairness was involved whatsoever. They handed out bags of chips to whomever asked for one, and these were not all stocked with the same value of chips. I think most people started out with beween $10,000 and $30,000 in "value" of chips. (They arbitrarily assigned high dollar values to these things). Lut and I played sat at a blackjack table and I practiced my abysmal card-counting skills. From a contest-winning view point, it probably would've made more sense to plunk all the starting chips down at the roulette table at the very end, when they took the bet cap off, and hope to get lucky. I kinda like BJ, but as it became clear that I wasn't going to have more than a modest win at best, I just tried to bet as much as possible before it was over. The point to the contest, after all, was to have the most, and it made much more sense to lose everything in an unlikely chance at winning more, than to come in second.
Our dealer was playing mostly by the rules. But I found out later that Glinda's dealer was cheating blatantly on behalf of her table -- throwing out cards that would let the house win, busting on every hand, hitting the players if they didn't realize they needed a hit, etc. Then, when the night was over, the table gave all their chips to Glinda so she could win. She had something like $350,000 in chips. (She then split the $100 prize with the table).
I suppose I could be bitter about this, but really, every year the party gives out several thousand dollars in door prizes. And it's not like Glinda went to this scheming on how to cheat; she just wound up with that dealer. So that $100 went to a badly run contest was no big deal.
Another contest was the mechanical bull contest, which I believe was run rather more fairly, though I couldn't really judge myself. I did ride the mechanical bull, four times, one of which was in the contest. It was fun! They had a team operating it -- a man who ran the bull, and a woman who managed the sign-up sheets, waivers, lines, etc.
The man running the bull would tailor how difficult it was based on who was riding. This was glaringly obvious, even during the contest itself. With some of the people, you could see it gently rocking back and forth with marginally more force than a WalMart mechanical pony. With others, it'd buck hard enough to send them flying into the air. (There was a two-foot high, thirty-foot diameter pad for folks to land on when they were thrown).
My first ride was before dinner, and I signaled him to stop when I got tired, rather than fall off. He went quite easy on me I did another round after dinner, and that time I went ahead and got thrown, instead of asking for a stop. I signed up for the contest for the heck of it. The contest was a bit disappointing. It was "stay on the bull eight seconds, and then we'll score the best ones at the end". I stayed on for eight seconds, and then they just stopped it, which made me feel disoriented. "What? It's over already?"
Needless to say, I did not win -- but in this case, there was never any chance that I would, so I didn't mind. :) Some folks had rides that were definitely longer than eight seconds, howeer, which made me wonder exactly what the judging criteria were.
I went on another ride before leaving, which was probably a mistake, as my wrist is still a bit sore two days later, and the inside tops of my thighs, for some reason. Must have been sitting wrong for the last one; I didn't have that problem the first three times. Riding was pretty hard on my wrist; it would hurt after each go 'round, though the first three times the ache faded quickly.
But it was fun. I have no illusions that I have any skill at it, and I attribute the fact that it wasn't "get on, get thrown as soon as it starts moving" solely to the generosity of the guy running it, not to any mechanical-bull-riding aptitude on my part. :)
Oh, and I won a gift certificate! Not to one of my favorite restaurants, but hey, better than nothing, which is what I got the last two years. :) The best part was, having determined that we were not going to win either of the contests, and were out of the running for more prizes (you only get one door prize), we felt no qualms about leaving once we were done at the blackjack table.
All in all, I was pleased to have attended. First time Lut and I have gone to any party and wanted to leave at the same time. Having multiple activities -- dancing, gambling, and the bull -- was definitely a good idea. I hope they do something similar next year!