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4-H Promotion Compendium: John B. Clark Friendship Party - Making a Dance Something Special


A National Compendium of 4-H Promotion and Visibility over the Past Century


John B. Clark Friendship Party - Making a Dance Something Special

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Of course, the entire week on National 4-H Congress in Chicago was always something special, but there were traditional Congress events each year which somehow outdid themselves. One of these was the John B. Clark Friendship Party sponsored by Coats & Clark, Inc.

Just how cool is dancing under the stars in a ballroom with a floating dance floor and designed to accommodate 8,000 people? Now, really, this is something the delegates did not have back in Montana or South Carolina or Vermont. But it was something they would certainly tell their friends about once they got home. During the decades of the 40s, 50s and 60s the 4-H Club Congress delegates were treated to these special dancing parties, earlier on at the Trianon Ballroom on the South side of Chicago, and later - starting in 1954, at the Aragon Ballroom on the North side. Each of these ballrooms were built during the 1920s by the same family at over one million dollars each. Elegant doesn't really seem to be a big enough word to describe either of the locations. Add to this the special music, refreshments and party plans by Coats & Clark and it traditionally became a night to remember.


Trianon Ballroom

During the 1920s dance crazes were sweeping the nation. Hoping to capitalize on this trend, entrepreneur Andrew Karzas sank $1 million into the construction of a new dance hall on Chicago's South Side. Opening in 1922, its spacious dance floor with Louis XVI-style decor could accommodate up to 3,000 dancers, while the ballroom's alcoves and upper level could hold just as many. The ballroom was closed in 1954 and demolished in 1967 for urban renewal.

 
Trianon Ballroom dance floor, circa. 1935. During the 1920s dance crazes were sweeping the nation. Hoping to capitalize on this trend, entrepreneur Andrew Karzas sank $1 million into the construction and promotion of a new dance hall on Chicago's South Side. Located at Cottage Grove and East 62nd Street, Karzas' Trianon Ballroom was Chicago's most expensive and most extravagant dance hall when it opened in 1922. Its spacious dance floor with Louis XVI-style decor could accommodate up to 3,000 dancers, while the ballroom's alcoves and upper level could hold just as many. Declining interest in public dancing prompted the closure of the Trianon in 1954 and it was demolished in 1967 by urban renewal authorities.


Aragon Ballroom

The enormous and extravagantly decorated Aragon Ballroom opened in 1926 in the heart of Chicago's booming Uptown district. The owners, brothers Andrew and William Karzas, who had built the Trianon four years earlier, really outdid themselves. The second-level dance floor was reached by assending a thickly carpeted grand staircase guarded by large plaster dragons. Once upstairs, patrons entered another world. The ballroom was designed to resemble the courtyard of a Moorish castle. Palm trees and twinkling lights resembling stars in the blue ceiling were added to give dancers the feeling they were spending the night under a clear, Spanish sky. Built to hold nearly 8,000 people, the all-maple dance floor rode a cushion of cork, felt, and springs that vibrated to the music of the Aragon's big bands. The Aragon's proximity to the Chicago 'L' train provided patrons with easy access, and often crowds in excess of 18,000 would attend during each six-day business week, with weekly attendance regularly topping 81,000. Regular dance schedules at the Aragon ended in 1964 and the last John B. Clark Friendship Party was held in 1966. ( Today, the Aragon has reopened for dancing and special concerts.

 
Aragon Ballroom dance floor, circa. 1935. The enormous and extravagantly decorated Aragon Ballroom opened in 1926 in the heart of Chicago's booming Uptown.





Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.


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