By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Mayor's Ball marks 25 years

Marcus Larson / News-Register
Mayor Rick Olson and his wife, Candi, greet guests Kris and Jim Gullo at the Mayor s Charity Ball Saturday night.
Marcus Larson / News-Register
Mayor Rick Olson and his wife, Candi, greet guests Kris and Jim Gullo at the Mayor's Charity Ball Saturday night.

While proceeds have not yet been totaled, the 25th annual ball definitely added to the coffers of the Kids on the Block after-school enrichment program. Since it got its start as a KOB fundraiser in 1990, the event has raised more than $2.1 million for sessions for McMinnville School District students.

“I never dreamed we would be here in 2014,” said a very pleased Candy Gormley, who started the fundraiser with her husband, longtime mayor Ed Gormley, and ran it for many years.

The first Mayor’s Ball played on McMinnville and Yamhill County’s growing reputation as a center for grape growing and wine production. “In the Heart of Wine Country” drew 250 people and raised $9,316 for the fledgling after school program, a combined effort of the city, school district and business community.

Subsequent balls had imaginative themes such as “Hot Salsa Nights,” “Hollywood Style,” “Fame, Fortune and Flappers,” “Champagne Cruise” and Gormley’s favorites, “A Trip to Italy” and the more casual “Oil Baron’s Ball.” Tickets usually sold out, with attendance nudging 500 each time.

“Each year we wanted things to be bigger and better,” she said. “And it was the best times of our lives, getting together with family and friends and doing something for kids.”

Gormley and her husband were delighted to celebrate the silver anniversary as guests at the ball.

She gave kudos to the many people who have continued to plan and run the event. They are “truly carrying on what we envisioned,” she said, adding, “It’s so much fun.”

Everyone was in a festive mood. Dressed to the nines in black, white or a combination of the two, they entered the McMinnville Community Center through a cascade of bubbles. Then they popped open wine bottles, dined, danced and enjoyed the company of friends and neighbors until the early hours of Super Bowl Sunday.

Mayor Rick Olson and his wife, Candi, greeted guests at the door. They’ve been the ceremonial king and queen of the ball since Ed Gormley ended his 25-year tenure as mayor at the end of 2008.

“We were so fortunate we had Ed and Candy to dream this up,” Olson said. “This is one of the funnest things going.”

It’s also one of the most important, he said, since it supports Kids on the Block, which has an enrollment of about 600 children each semester. He called the after-school program crucial to the community.

“We have to get the kids early, give them positive reinforcement, a safe place to go, enrichment, social skills,” he said. “I really value KOB. It builds really good members of the community.”

Although he serves as a host of the ball, Olson said his own contribution is small. It’s really the volunteer crews who do everything from rounding up sponsors to decorating the community center.

“It takes everybody working together to make it happen,” he said.”I can’t think of a better cause than our kids.”

Many of the kids who spent time in KOB are now adults who attend the Mayor’s Ball or teens who help with it.

McMinnville High School students Riley McAnally and Kraig Cooper, both KOB alumni, donned top hats and tails to serve as doormen Saturday night. Both said they jumped at the chance to help out a program that benefited them.

“I loved KOB,” Riley said. “I got to go to KOB after school, I didn’t have to.”

Kraig looked forward to the after school program as well. “It was a great way to release energy,” he said.

As the young doormen worked the door, the Humlies performed music in the community center gym. Later, the more raucous 5 Guys Named Moe took over and guests filled the dance floor.

Upstairs, a combo from the Delphian School played as guests bid on silent auction items such as jewelry, trips to the coast or the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, activity packages such as a baking class at Red Fox Bakery, “Brewer for a Day” or a “Children’s Lazy Afternoon.”

Guests helped themselves to a buffet that featured adult mac & cheese as well as prime rib, Carlton Farms pork and seafood ragout. They stayed in the food room to place bids in a second silent auction that featured only wines and related items — single bottles, magnums, collections, flights.

At 9 o’clock, everyone paused for a short program about the ball and its cause.

Dave Hanson, retired Linfield College dean and former city council member, served as master of ceremonies. He introduced honored guests, including city and school officials, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, and state Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas. And he noted that Dale Tomlinson, who first envisioned KOB, was in the audience as well.

Hanson and Jay Pearson, director of McMinnville Parks and Recreation, honored the Gormleys as well. The ball they started “supports our most valued asset ... KOB raises successful kids,” Pearson said.

He presented the Mayor’s Ball founder with a special gift of wine, including a bottle of Sokol Blosser pinot noir saved from the first event in 1990.

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