14 Apr 2017

Biennial singles ball aims for record ticket sales

8:58 pm on 14 April 2017

Singles from across the country are preparing to don their glad rags for this year's Middlemarch Singles Ball, which is looking set for record ticket sales.

The 2015 Middlemarch Singles Ball.

The 2015 Middlemarch Singles Ball. Photo: Supplied / Facebook

Demand is high for the last of the 700 tickets available for this Saturday's biennial ball, which is looking to outdo the previous ball by nearly 200 sales.

Among those heading to the ball is Gore woman Lyn Berry, a modern Cinderella driving her own carriage, a tiny yellow campervan.

Lyn Berry's caravan drives past the Big Fruit in Cromwell.

Lyn Berry's caravan drives past the Big Fruit in Cromwell. Photo: Supplied

She said she was driving solo to the ball, and wasn't holding out for Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet.

Lyn Berry

Lyn Berry Photo: Supplied

"Gee, look at those pigs flying across the window," she said.

"If it happens, it happens, I don't really care. I'm just going up to have a good time and enjoy myself and meet people."

She said there weren't many chances in small towns to get dressed up and dance.

"You don't get the opportunity to put on a really swanky dress and get your hair done and put on some make up for a change."

Ms Berry said it was getting harder to find chances to meet people in a safe, friendly environment, as more people turned to online dating apps such as Tinder.

"[I'm] not on Tinder...but I know a lot of people who do use it.

"You hear the odd story of people who meet on it it and end up happily ever after, but for people I know that use it, it's just there for a 'hook up'."

Former ball goer Jenna Orpwood agreed.

She married and had a baby with Will Orpwood, who wooed her at the 2013 ball, and she credited the event with giving people a chance to meet each other without preconceptions that might come with online dating.

"It was a really good country atmosphere and people are all there for the same reason, to have a good time and maybe find somebody who has something in common with them."

Jenna and Will Orpwood met at the 2013 ball and now have a baby.

Jenna and Will Orpwood met at the 2013 ball and now have a baby. Photo: Supplied / Facebook

She and her husband are one of several marriages or long-term romances that have resulted from past balls.

She said it used to be easy to meet potential partners at local pubs but that had changed with the increasing use of smartphones and social media.

"It's not as normal to go down to the pub and strike up a conversation, everyone's on their bloody phones.

"Phones have got a lot to answer for."

Ms Orpwood said she had encouraged some of her single bridesmaids to head to the ball this year.

The ball started 16 years ago in a bid to find partners for single high country farmers, and a bunch of Auckland nurses were sent down to Middlemarch to capture some hearts.

However since then the crowd has become more diverse, with men and women coming from far and wide, as well as some married couples who just want to dance the night away.

Organiser Helen Fincham-Putter said demand had risen for this year's ball since organisers decided to market it on social media.

"We did one post and we had about 13,000 likes, well that's just unbelievable - Middlemarch has got a population of about 260 people."

Ms Fincham-Putter said part of what kept the ball unique was its transportation: ball goers can choose to catch the 'love train' to and from Dunedin for the event.

On the night itself, party goers would be treated to live music and a continuous hot supper in a heated marquee.

There would also be also security on hand, but Ms Fincham-Putter said there had never been a serious incident.

She said as long as enough people wanted to come to the ball, it would continue.