It is with alarming regularity that we are attending 50th birthday parties these days. The one on Saturday night had a lovely nostalgic twist to it though, at least to those of us who grew up in Manitoba, and believe me, we ex-pat Manitobans were well represented that evening.
The birthday boy had requested a Manitoba social (known in Manitoba simply as a social), which I think was an inspired idea. I haven't been to a social in decades, but they formed a huge part of my social life as a teenager. They were also probably responsible for enabling the vast majority of underage drinking in the province, and thus served a valuable societal function.
Socials were generally held as fundraisers for a couple about to get married. A hall or the local legion would be booked, admission tickets sold by the couple's friends and family, and everybody who knew the couple or who knew somebody who knew the couple would show up. There was always a cash bar with pretty cheap drinks and no real policing of who was consuming said drinks. There was a DJ who would inevitably play the Chicken Dance at some point in the night, and a mixture of newer pop songs ("for the kids") and some oldies to get the seniors up on the dance floor, and would usually end the night with Stairway to Heaven.
At midnight, a buffet lunch of garlic sausage, cheese, pickles and rye bread would be served, and throughout the night, someone would go table to table selling 50/50 tickets for a draw for a Texas mickey of rye.
Most every social I attended (and they would number in the dozens upon dozens) had the same format, and yet, they never got boring somehow. It's just what you did on a Friday or Saturday night, and not just in small towns either. Even in the sprawling metropolis of Winnipeg where I grew up, socials held their own against all other forms of entertainment.
It was pretty great to go to a social again this weekend, even if it was held in a suburban home instead of a legion or a church hall. And even if I didn't win the damned 50/50. Again.