Communities rally behind 1850s Winter Ball |

Communities rally behind 1850s Winter Ball

Denise Sloan

When folks in the Sierra decide to get behind a local fund-raiser, everyone from the U.S. Forest Service to restaurants and resorts to Stateline performers join the cause.

“The response from Lake Tahoe to Carson City to Pollock Pines has been phenomenal,” said Vi Tara, coordinator of the 1850s Winter Ball. This costumed gala, set for Saturday in the Grand Hall at Valhalla, is co-sponsored by Camp Richardson Resort and the Highway 50 Association.

All funds raised during the dinner/dance will go to keep the 48th annual Wagon Train rolling toward its 50th anniversary.

“This is the third annual 1850s Winter Ball and from the support we’ve received since we had to postpone, it’s certainly going to be the most festive,” Tara said.

The fund-raiser was originally set for Jan. 25 but the closure of U.S. Highway 50 and flooding in the Carson and Sacramento valleys forced the postponement.

“So many members of the Highway 50 Association live in the valleys and many were fighting for their homes and livestock,” Tara said. “We just did not feel that it was appropriate to have a celebration then.

“Now in the spirit of the Old West, we’re all pulling together to make this Winter Ball even better.”

Support came through Jane Oden, special uses assistant at the U.S. Forest Service in the form of donating Valhalla for the event. Camp Richardson Resort is catering the dinner and guests receive a discount on lodging at the resort.

Harveys Resort Hotel/Casino, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, Horizon Casino Resort, master magician Tony Clark, Nephele’s, Camp Richardson and The Beacon have all donated prizes or services.

“We’ve received so many great prizes to give away during the ball that it really makes the evening more exciting,” Tara said.

Prizes include a night in one of Camp Richardson’s beachfront cabins, several dinner packages, gourmet gift baskets, free tickets to Stateline shows, a raft tour, bicycle rentals and more.

The costumed event begins at 5 p.m. with no-host cocktails; a historical presentation by McAvoy Layne as Mark Twain; dinner at 6:30 p.m.; many raffle prizes; and dancing to authentic 1850s music. The band is called Joyfull Strings and they offer historically authentic tunes such as “Oh! Suzanna,” written by Stephen Foster in 1848, the same year gold was discovered in California. Costumed guests will also dance to “The Virginia Reel,” “Home Sweet Home” and “Buffalo Gals” all performed on hammered dulcimers, violins and even saws.

Colorful characters of Wagon Train such as Black Bart, Red Baron, Moose and Davey “Doc” Wiser will trade their signature buckskins and horses for top hats and tails to attend the ball. Women will be decked out in elegant ball gowns, hoop skirts and Victorian frocks for the evening. Tickets are $30 per person. For Winter Ball reservations, call Tara at (916) 644-3761. For local costume rentals, call Back Fence Costumers at 544-0755.

The 1850s Winter Ball is officially sanctioned by the state to celebrate California’s sesquicentennial.

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