Lake Valley celebrates 50 years of ‘Firefighters Ball’
Fires come and go, but Lake Valley Fire Protection District’s annual Firefighter’s Ball has stuck around for deades.
Now in its 50th year, the fundraising event is set to ignite Friday in the Grand Ballroom at Montbleu Casino Resort and Spa. After so many decades, the Firefighter’s Ball, as well as the district itself, is wrapped in history.
“Unless I’ve been on duty, I’ve gone 17 or 18 times. We” said Capt. Joe McAvoy. “It used to be the event of the year for some people.”
LVFPD has been around since 1947. The men and women of the station covered South Lake Tahoe until 1966, when the city was incorporated. Staff and volunteers at the district’s three stations have responded to almost every major fire or accident in the area. And they have the clippings and pictures, hung on the wall and glued to thick yellowing albums, to prove it.
McAvoy can list the big fires: the Amacker Ranch Fire, the Little Norway Fires, the Cleveland Fire, and, of course, the Angora Fire.
Among the old articles are blurbs and photos from Firefighter’s Balls over the years. But it hardly takes the spread of old newspapers to bring the memories back for Leona Allen, the district’s spokeswoman.
“I remember when the old American’s Legion collapsed,” she said. “My cousin was in there setting up for the junior/senior prom. If it had been an hour later, they would have had 150 high schoolers in there.”
That was in 1964. The Firefighter’s Ball, which was to be held in the building, had to be canceled that year.
Through the years, the event has changed from a rugged sandwich dinner and dance to a formal evening affair. McAvoy remembers having to tromp around in the snow outside the Elks Club to go to the port-a-potties. Attendees now spend big bucks on fine clothing, Allen said.
“It really has changed quite a bit,” she said. “I hear ladies talking about going out months in advance to buy an outfit.”
“It’s like an adult prom in there,” McAvoy laughs, recalling the time a group of city firefighters showed up in disco-wear.
After a quiet couple of years, organizer Brian Pierce hopes this year’s event will be a big one. He’s still considering how he’s going to get the district’s antique fire truck into the ballroom.
“It’s a 90-degree turn through this little corridor,” Pierce said. “It’s kind of tricky.”
The money raised by the event will go to charity, the district’s scholarships to the fire academy at Lake Tahoe Community College and for equipment they couldn’t otherwise afford.
“We’ve just been able to do a lot of really neat things with the money,” Allen said.