By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Themes like only yesterday

News-Register file photoCreative themes have been a highlight of the McMinnville Mayor’s Ball over the years. Here, ballgoers enjoy front-row seats at the Kentucky Derby 
in 2012.
News-Register file photo
Creative themes have been a highlight of the McMinnville Mayor’s Ball over the years. Here, ballgoers enjoy front-row seats at the Kentucky Derby in 2012.
News-Register file photoThere was magic in the air during the 2010 gala.
News-Register file photo
There was magic in the air during the 2010 gala.
News-Register file photoMayor Ed Gormley welcomed guests to the mighty jungle in 2008.
News-Register file photo
Mayor Ed Gormley welcomed guests to the mighty jungle in 2008.

And all the while, McMinnville’s biggest annual party has continued raising money — an average of $86,205 per year — for the Kids on the Block after school activity and enrichment program.

This year, the ball will increase its fundraising total while giving a nod to each of its previous themes as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. The 2014 theme is “Silver Anniversary, Black and White Gala, 25 Years of Giving.”

Guests in formal wear or theme costumes will fill the McMinnville Community Center from 6:30 p.m. until after midnight Saturday, Feb. 1. The evening will include socializing, dancing to live music, dinner and a silent auction.

The Humlie Trio will play during the first part of the evening, then Five Guys Named Moe will perform. The Rogue Gourmet Catering Co. will take the lead in preparing the meal. Auction items range from wine and jewelry to trips and experiences, such as dinner prepared in your home by a local chef.

Tickets are $80 per person, with proceeds going to KOB. Reservations are available through the ball’s website,

The first Mayor’s Ball, organized by Candy Gormley and her husband Mayor Ed back in 1990, played on McMinnville and Yamhill County’s growing reputation as a center for grape growing and wine production. “In the Heart of Wine Country” raised $9,316 for the fledgling KOB program, a combined effort of the city, school district and business community.

Yet who knew, then, that all three parts of that original event — the after-school program, wine country and the ball itself — would be flourishing in 2014? And not just flourishing, but key aspects of life McMinnville-style, as Ed Gormley and other longtime city officials like to say.

The Gormleys would continue to host the ball for many years to come as Ed was re-elected again and again — for a total of 25 years as mayor. They passed the torch, and hosting duties, to Rick and Candi Olson in February 2009, a month after Rick was sworn in as mayor.

In its second year, the ball served a dual purpose: raising money for KOB and marking the 10th birthday of the McMinnville Community Center. “A Black Tie Affair” raised $13,693 for Kids on the Block.

Fantasy themes took over in 1992, when Gormley and other volunteers turned the community center into a cruise ship for the ball. Already a tradition at age 3, the “Champagne Cruise” raised $16,028.

Ballgoers dressed in “Hollywood Style” for the fourth event. The 1993 event broke the $20,000 mark for the first time, topping out at $20,679.

In 1994, “Hot Salsa Nights” brought a touch of Latin fire to a chilly February Saturday. The crowd danced and dined with abandon, bringing in $25,317 for Kids on the Block.

The sixth Mayor’s Ball took participants East. Pagodas, fans and kimonos decorated the community center as “An Oriental Affair” brought in $32,309.

In 1996, the ball played on another February tradition, Mardi Gras, and took McMinnville merrymakers to New Orleans for an evening of jazz and jambalaya. The seventh charity event raised $37,474.

The community center became a ski lodge in 1997, as each attendee was invited to fulfill his or her “Winter Fantasy.” The decorations looked cold, but the hearts of donors were warm, and the fundraising total reached $47,605.

Italy was the destination in 1998, as ballgoers celebrated Italian “People, Places and Glorious Food.” Pizza and Pisa brought in $66,251 for the after school program.

The ball marked its 10th anniversary in 1999 with a circus theme. Ringmasters, tightrope walkers, clowns and animals helped “Ten Years Under the Big Top” bring in $74,396.

The event launched into the new millennium in 2000 with “Star Wars: Episode 11.” A real astronaut took part in the festivities that night, helping the mayor reveal a $72,000 fundraising total.

In 2001, it was all about camels, sheiks and dancing girls as the ball traveled to the Middle East. “Midnight at the Oasis” raised $90,644.

The 2002 event took participants back in time 80 years for “Fame, Fortune & Flappers: A Return to the Roaring ’20s.” KOB benefited from the $98,865 proceeds.

A like amount, $98,098, was raised the following year, when the community center went tropical for the “Island Paradise” theme.

In 2004, the 15th annual ball broke the $100,000 mark for the first time, bringing in a whopping $114,485. Ballgoers celebrated in a genteel manner befitting the theme, Savannah Serenade.

The 16th ball took McMinnville residents much farther than Georgia, or even Kansas, with the theme “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion were among the guests that evening as the $132,355 total was revealed.

Ballgoers were traveling again in 2006, this time to the Big Apple. A panoramic city skyline filled one wall of the community center for “In a New York Moment,” which raised $149,143.”

The 18th ball, in 2007, was anything but city-fied — participants brought out their cowboy hats and boots for the theme “Diamonds & Spurs: The Mayor’s Oil Baron Ball.” A real horse and a mechanical bull added to the decorations. KOB received a check for $172,747 that night.

The animals got even bigger in 2008, when realistic looking elephants and giraffes joined the ball for “A Jungle Adventure: A Walk on the Wild Side.” It was the biggest fundraiser in the history of the annual event: $175,727 came in for the after school program.

For the 20th anniversary, ball-goers went “South of the Border, Down Mexico Way.” Mexican food, cacti and the biggest pinata ever were in order, and $164,808 was raised that night.

That 2009 ball also marked a turning point: The Olsons hosted for the first time. The Gormleys were by their side, co-hosting for the last time.

In 2010, “A Touch of Magic” filled the community center. With real magicians, oversized playing cards and a rabbit popping out of a giant top hat, the ball conjured up $125,000 for KOB.

Decorators worked their magic again in 2011, building a replica of the Eiffel Tower to accompany the theme “Une Nuit a Paris.” The evening, which raised $117,000, featured both a replica of the Arc de Triomphe, the monument Napoleon had erected to commemorate his army’s victories, and Napoleon himself — or at least a guest resplendent in a white uniform with gold buttons and a tricorn hat.

The 23rd annual ball took us to one of the fanciest galas in the country, the Kentucky Derby. Women sported fancy hats as they sipped mint juleps, and miniature horses raced down the homestretch in the community center gym. “Kentucky Derby Dream” raised $115,000.

Hats were off, but masks were on in 2013, for the “Royal Masquerade” version of the Mayor’s Charity Ball. When all the secrets were revealed, KOB discovered $100,000 for its programs.

That brought the grand total raised in 24 years to $2,068,940.

That night, an unmasked Peter Kircher, who had just finished a term as president of the Kids on the Block board, remarked on the importance of McMinnville’s annual gala.

It’s much more than a party, he said, since it helps KOB provide a safe place and enrichment activities for children. The Mayor’s Ball is needed, he said, because “KOB is one of the most important nonprofit programs in the community.”

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