By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Ball sparkles for big, happy crowd

Marcus Larson/News-Register The crowd at this year’s Mayor’s Ball is entertained by the band Five Guys Named Moe, playing upbeat music.The 26th annual event raises money for Kids on the Block.
Marcus Larson/News-Register
The crowd at this year’s Mayor’s Ball is entertained by the band Five Guys Named Moe, playing upbeat music.The 26th annual event raises money for Kids on the Block.
Marcus Larson/News-Register Jeanne DeRaeve and her husband Ed discuss which prize bundles they want to put their raffle tickets toward.
Marcus Larson/News-Register
Jeanne DeRaeve and her husband Ed discuss which prize bundles they want to put their raffle tickets toward.

They came for the party, the music, the dancing and the chance to dress up in long gowns, sparkly dresses, suits or jackets with jeans. But most of all, they said, they came to support Kids on the Block — McMinnville’s after school program, the raison d’etre for the ball.

“It’s a good cause,” said Megan Sandmann after she and husband Jay paused for a quick selfie on the way into the community center.

Sandmann, who teaches in Sheridan, said schools often trim activities these days. But McMinnville students are fortunate to have enrichment activities through KOB, she said.

The after school program was created to give children a safe place to go between the time classes end and their parents come home. A cooperative venture of the school district, city and community, it offers homework help, arts and crafts, music, dance, nutritional cooking, fitness and STEM activities.

The Mayor’s Ball was started in 1990 by Mayor Ed and Candy Gormley to support the fledgling KOB program. It’s become a much-anticipated tradition, drawing hundreds of people on the first Saturday of February and raising about $1.5 million for KOB by its silver anniversary.

This year, for the first time, the ball was more compact, starting at 8 p.m. instead of the usual 6:30. But guests were no less enthusiastic. They starting arriving a few minutes before 8, and the community center was full well before 8:30.

Outside, lights twinkled like stars on trees defining the entryway. Rain was falling as people arrived, adding to the shimmering effect of the lights.

Inside the community center gym, ballgoers danced under the stars -- sparkly and lighted stars of all sizes hanging from the ceilings and railings in the community center gym, plus a pair of huge falling stars that also swished through the venue during the McMinnville Music Booster’s Jazz Night a week earlier.

The stars represented children, so the theme of the event was “Stars of the Show,” said Janet Adams, KOB director and ball organizer.

Many of the glittery decorations were created by the 420 youngsters in the after school program. Older students, including a group from the Delphian School, helped with serving and other aspects of the event. Members of the Linfield College men’s basketball team helped hang the decorations.

“Anything above about 5 1/2 feet, the basketball players put up,” Adams joked.

She said she had a great experience working with the team, the kids and all the others who volunteered their time to make the 26th ball a success. In particular, she noted her city coworkers.

“Every department helped out,” Adams said. “It reminded me why I like working for the City of McMinnville.”

Five Guys Named Moe — whose membership is actually about twice the size the name describes — provided a pounding sidetrack that pleased the crowd. Its numbers included Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star,” as well as songs such as “Shout!” and “Celebration” and “Happy.”

The music struck a chord with both those who make the ball an annual event and those who were attending for the first time. Among the first-timers was Martha Meeker, McMinnville’s new city manager.

“This is fantastic,” said Meeker, who was captivated when she saw the exterior lights as she arrived. Inside, she said, she found “a very nice atmosphere” that showed the touch of many caring volunteers.

All that, she said, “and it’s a very good cause.”

This year, the ball didn’t include a formal dinner. Many couples said they dined at restaurants or met for dinner with friends before the ball.

But even the hungriest ballgoer would have been satisfied, because plenty of “hearty appetizers” were available — everything from chicken and rice cooked paella style, adult macaroni and cheese, pulled pork sliders and mushroom soup to fruit, vegetables and two-bite desserts.

As they ate and sipped local vintages and brews, guests perused an array of raffle items — wine, stuffed bears in UO and OSU colors, wine, a stack of novels from Third Street Books, wine, handmade jewelry, wine, paintings, a children’s package that included curtsy lessons, wine, etc.

Ballgoers could drop their raffle tickets into the drawings for the items they desired.

There was no silent auction.

That was the only feature some people said they missed about the event. Instead of getting to compete for what they wanted, they had to trust their fate in the stars.

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