By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Mayor's Ball raises about $110,000 for KOB

Once proceeds are totaled, McMinnville’s biggest annual party will have raised about $110,000 for the after-school enrichment program, according to organizer Pam Watts.

Janet Adams, KOB’s program manager, compared the Mayor’s Ball and the other support efforts to the old tale about stone soup.

“Everyone contributes,” she said, citing ballgoers, ball sponsors, the city, the school district, the local business community and the KOB board. “And it all goes to helping kids,” Adams said.

The Mayor’s Ball was founded in 1990 by Ed and Candy Gormley, longtime mayor and first lady of McMinnville. They started the annual event to raise money for KOB, which had been launched the previous year to provide kids a safe place to go in the hours between the end of the school day and parents’ arrival home from work.

The program has grown over the years to serve 600 or more students each term, with sites at all six McMinnville School District elementary schools. It offers students homework help, physical activity and enrichment activities.

The ball has grown alongside it.

Now hosted by Mayor Rick Olson and his wife, Candi, it attracts more than 500 people each February. In the process, it raises tens of thousands each year, or a total of about $1.5 million over 24 years.

Plans will soon be under way for the 25th annual ball, scheduled for Feb. 1, 2014.

Local restaurateur Peter Kircher, who just ended a term as president of the Kids on the Block board, said he considers KOB “one of the most important nonprofit programs in the community.”

Kircher said KOB provides a great foundation for kids at a prime time in their lives. “It’s a huge opportunity,” he said.

He pointed out that McMinnville now has teachers and community members who participated in KOB as children. “That shows you how it reaches deep into the community,” he said.

For Saturday’s “Royal Masquerade” ball, the McMinnville Community Center was decorated in royal tones — reds and golds and purples — with shiny mirrors, jewel-bedecked chandeliers and banners bearing heraldic symbols such as fleurs-de-lis and lions.

A faux stone fireplace enhanced the ambiance in the dining hall. King and queen thrones graced the balcony, overlooking the dance floor. Masks were everywhere, decorating tables as well as walls.

Guests wore ball gowns, suits and, in many cases, royal cloaks and capes. Some affected “Masterpiece Theatre” accents to go with their costumes.

Many hid their identifies with masks, ranging from simple black to the most elaborate creations of feathers and jewels.

Eric Wright wore a golden cape and a mask that he claimed gave him the longest nose at the ball. He had fun dressing up, he said.

He and companion Estella Austin attended because it’s a great cause, Wright said.

“It is a great party, though,” he said. “On a scale of one to 10, this is a 15.”

Rick and Dawn Owens said they look forward to the ball each year, both to support KOB and to party.

“We love it,” he said. “It’s a great time out. McMinnville is doing a great job.”

Dan Cuppett and Elizabeth Ackerman came to support the cause and dressed up for the fun of it.

He recycled a vampire costume, which he’d worn trick-or-treating with their son, into an outfit suitable for a royal event. She decorated his mask — covering a bird’s beak frame with brocade — and painted one of her own to go with her black party dress.

That “man of mystery” roaming the castle halls was Jon Gross.

By day he sells cars at Mac Toyota. On the night of the ball, he donned an all-white ensemble — shoes, tights, knee-length satin pants, waistcoat, powdered wig and featured hat — and painted his face white beneath his mask.

Intrigued ballgoers posed for photos with him, usually without asking his real identity.

“This is a great cause,” Gross said, “so I told the organizers, ‘Put me to work.’ And they did.”

Other wandering volunteers were costumed as highwaymen, the beast from “Beauty and the Beast,” and jesters.

Volunteer Leslie Banke, wore a royal purple ball gown with silver decorations matching her silver mask. She spent part of the evening greeting guests.

Earlier, she spent many hours decorating for the ball, as she has done for the past five years. She’s one of more than 200 people who helped make the ball possible.

“This is THE party in town,” Banke said. “It’s a great reflection of the community all coming together to support a great cause.”

As guests arrived, Brendon Tse of the Delphian School played piano in the lobby

Outside, they had already been greeted by Frankie, a spotted draft horse whose ancestors may have pulled carriages for the king and queen of England.

Wearing a fancy Scottish broom harness, Frankie waited patiently in front of a royal carriage driven by Don Price. They stood prepared, just in case a princess needed to leave the ball in a rush.

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