APRIL 26, 1974 • A RETROSPECTIVE
In 1973, Ada Bors, a community member of the University Symphony Orchestra, requested that Barbara Pautz, an area resident, assist in composing a proposal to present a Viennese Ball at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
They submitted this idea to Chancellor Leonard Haas in early December of that year.
Dr. Rupert Hohmann, conductor of the University Symphony Orchestra, had already given his approval for such a proposal.
The event would feature the University Symphony Orchestra in the Southwoods Ballroom of W.R. Davies University Center, performing primarily waltzes and polkas by Johann Strauss, Jr. The ball would provide an opportunity to welcome residents of the greater Eau Claire area, and beyond, to come to the campus for a major social occasion showcasing student musicians.
After considering the proposal, Chancellor Haas then invited administrative staff, along with Dr. Hohmann, to discuss the possibilities of hosting such an event. Johannes Dahle, director of University Centers, was asked to further explore the feasibility of scheduling a Viennese Ball in the spring of 1974.
Dominic Spera, director of Jazz Ensemble I, agreed to alternate with the University Symphony Orchestra by performing dance music from the Big Band Era.
A volunteer committee composed of area residents, UW-Eau Claire faculty/staff and students was organized. The membership of the first Viennese Ball Committee included the following:
Valena Burke, faculty/staff
Hilda Carter, faculty/staff
Eileen Cohen, area resident
Mary Lou (Weiss) Gabriel, area resident
Sharon Heinz, area resident
Lynn (Wolf) Kotecki, student
Shirley (Wright) Litchfield, faculty/staff
Linda (Booton) Olson, student
Sally Webb, faculty/staff
Ada Bors, area resident (co-chair)
Barbara Pautz, area resident (co-chair)
The ticket prices were $3 for adults and $2 for students.
An attendance goal of 600 was set. Any monies remaining after the production expenses were met would be directed to music scholarships.
In 1973 no alcoholic beverages were served on University of Wisconsin campuses. The Faculty Senate received a request from the Viennese Ball Committee that a new policy be established so that Austrian wines and beers could be available for purchase at the new event. After much discussion, the Faculty Senate under the leadership of Dr. Wilmer Pautz agreed to that change. The Board of Regents granted its approval soon thereafter.
Tortes and cakes donated by community and faculty/staff members were available for purchase. Viennese coffee accompanied these desserts.
And so it came together. From 8:30 p.m. to midnight on Friday, April 26, 1974, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire presented its first Viennese Ball with 668 in attendance. It was more than sold out. To the surprise of many, the proceeds reached a sum of $1,500. As planned, these monies were directed to Viennese Ball Music Scholarships.
The Viennese Ball has greatly exceeded its origins, hosting more than 3,000 patrons on a two-night schedule. Ticket sales have generated more than $1.5 million for scholarships and awards. Austrian officials documented that UW-Eau Claire presents the largest Viennese Ball in the world outside of Vienna.
This success of the Viennese Ball is largely attributable to the scores of people, many of them volunteers, who have dedicated themselves to this project. Above all, its success is due to those first committee members who persevered and gave rise to a new venture. It is they who laid the foundation for the Annual Viennese Ball at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.