Rose Ball promises an enchanting evening

By From page B3 | May 19, 2011

What: Rose Ball, featuring the Easy Sounds Band

Who: El Dorado Roses

Where: American Legion Hall, 4561 Greenstone Road, Placerville

When: May 21, doors open 6:45 p.m.

Cost: $25, includes catered supper

Information: 530-626-4949

About 150 years ago, pioneer ladies would have enjoyed the Rose Ball as a respite from the travail of setting up housekeeping in a new state.

But the gala taking place at the new American Legion Hall this Saturday brings back the glamour of yesterday, yet is an oasis in a very different world.

Nowadays, lives are ruled by computers and clocks rather than sunrise and sunset, but it is still fun to enjoy an elegant evening out, away from the cares of the world.

Many  of El Dorado County’s most charming residents will be attendance, wearing resplendent gowns accompanied by men in tuxes and top hats. But don’t let attire keep you from attending — just get dressed up and join the fun.

Many of the people attending have a real appreciation of the rugged heritage of El Dorado County forebears, and Roses past and present will look like beautiful blossoms in their finery.

Between the Rose Court, past and present Roses, Golden Roses and Rose candidates, the room blooms in vintage costumes and exquisite hats. One of them is Carol Burnley, El Dorado Rose 2006 and president of the Rose Committee.

This beautiful woman, like all the Roses, has studied history and will be attired in one of her magnificent ensembles.

But she knows that it would have been difficult for pioneer women to have the elegant dresses that will be seen at the Ball. After months and months on the trail, they would have needed to make a new gown for the occasion. Money, time and fabric would have been scarce. But after a few years in California, things became more available, especially to those with luck in the gold fields or the merchant trades.

Back in the Gold Rush days, many pioneer women could only have imagined an old-fashioned ball with elegant decor, exquisite dresses, sumptuous food and beautiful dancing music. Even now, it’s fun to dream about, but the Rose Ball this Saturday night will have all these things.

An enchanted evening

The Rose Ball is also has the added surprise of announcing the Golden Rose. It adds up to an enchanted evening, something special in El Dorado County.

This year the Rose Ball may be more special than ever. For the first time, it is being held at the new American Legion Hall on Greenstone Road.

“This is so special,” said Burnley, coordinator of the ball. “We finally have a beautiful place big enough to accomodate the Rose Ball. We’re really looking forward to it.”

Bob Burnley and his American Legion comrades are proud and happy about the new facility, and are looking forward to sharing it with El Dorado County.

A catered supper

A light buffet supper will be served, which promises to be delicious. It will be catered by Diane Wilkinson, who has made a name for herself with exquisite dishes and a catering business.

Though categorized as “light,” the meal promises to be as delicious as the Roses all look in their beautiful creations.

Pioneer women endured miles of dust, thirst, hunger and fear. The lives they knew in the settled East were gone forever. After selecting only the most treasured items to take on the trail, they usually ended up getting rid of more things on the way.

According to Burnley, who has researched the lives of the pioneers, food was paramount for the journey. Wagons needed to be light to traverse the mountains, and cherished possessions were left behind.

Even more precious things were left on the trail, including those who perished from diseases like cholera and typhoid. Others died in child birth and in skirmishes with Indians; dangers on the way to Gold Country were rampant.

Upon arrival in California, life still wasn’t easy. There was lots of work to do.

Dancing like the stars

In their beautiful gowns, it is almost de rigeur for Roses, their escorts and all the guests to enjoy dancing to the beautiful music of the Easy Sounds band. The Rose Ball is an opportunity to get dressed up and to waltz and dance to the old-time tunes and the big band sound.

Not everyone can compete with Teddy Wolterbeek, 2000 El Dorado Rose and her husband, who have danced together for decades. They still teach folk dancing classes and can cut a graceful rug on the dance floor in any style. But dancing at the Rose Ball is not about competition; it’s about fun.

A golden honor

Until the Rose Ball, the selection of the Golden Rose is known to only those on the Rose Committee, and they keep it a secret.

On this night, the Golden Rose is announced. A Golden Rose possesses all the attributes of the El Dorado Rose, but due to age or other extenuating circumstances she would not be able to fulfill the duties of a Rose, who is the official ambassadress of El Dorado County.

The Golden Rose does not know that she has been nominated for this honor and is surprised when her name is announced at the ball according to the committee.

Last year, Vivian Carpender, 81, was astonished by the honor, but she fulfilled her duties with graciousness and charm. Carpender almost didn’t make it to the Rose Ball last year, but friends insisted that she attend. She soon found out why.

When El Dorado County Supervisor Jack Sweeney announced the appellation, Carpender was taken off guard. She had been much too busy with other volunteer work and activities that she had never run for El Dorado Rose, even though friends often urged her to become a candidate.

No matter who is selected, the Golden Rose is usually surprised and honored. They are always wonderful women who wear the sash of “Golden Rose” with delight, sincerity and aplomb. A Golden Rose joins the legacy of altruistic women in El Dorado County who represent the best of womanhood, past and present.

Since 1986, many illustrious women have been selected as Golden Rose, including Clara Scheiber. The first Golden Rose was Sweeney’s mother, Florence, and he has always enjoyed announcing the surprise.

The 1995 Golden Rose Juanita Grimm attended Rose candidate Mary Ann Harper’s reception and graced the event with beauty all dressed up in blue and white calico including a delightful bonnet. After being selected a Golden Rose, Grimms still reflects the finest virtues of Rosedom, including kindness and verve, a true blessing to El Dorado County. That’s how wonderful the El Dorado County Rose program is, inspiring everyone to appreciate history while improving the present.

Nourishing Roses

When speaking at Rose functions, Burnley refers charmingly to the Rose Garden, welcoming new Rose candidates to the garden and appreciating all Roses for their contribution to the community. Candidates this year include Normandene Carpender, Mary Ann Harper and Judy Metz.

El Dorado County Rose, the always charming and vibrant Mary Kay Brancheau said that she will proudly turn over her sash to any of these women, and the judges will have a hard choice to make, once again.

While many gorgeous outfits from the past will be seen at the American Legion Hall, there probably won’t be horses and buggies tethered outside, nor any elegant pumpkin carriages. Many Roses arrive in style, though, in exquisite antique cars. But no matter how you choose to arrive at the ball, there is something for everyone at a very special night in El Dorado County that relives history while becoming future history.

For tickets or more information call 530-626-4949.

e-mail [email protected]

Susana Carey Wey

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