||Schofield Hall 218|
||Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
Ada Bors Coordinates Her|
Last Viennese Ball
MAILED: March 12, 1999|
Ada Bors hoped to turn a dream into a reality when she proposed many years ago that the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire host an elegant ball to showcase the talents of the University Symphony Orchestra.
As Bors prepares for the Viennese Ball's silver anniversary April 16 and 17 the last before she retires she is still awed by the success of the annual event that many believed would not succeed.
"The memories of that first ball will stay with me forever," said Bors, who planned the early events as a volunteer and later was hired by the university to coordinate special events. "I know what I wore; I remember the evening vividly. I remember watching the faces of people as they danced and I remember the sound of the fabric from the dresses hearing the swooshing sound of the fabric. It was thrilling, it was magical."
In 1974, the late Chancellor Leonard Haas asked Jo Dahle to create a budget and pull together a committee of volunteers and staff to plan the first ball. Twenty-five years later, the Viennese Ball is still flourishing.
Bors and her family had recently returned from a yearlong stay in Europe and she was a community member of the University Symphony Orchestra, when she proposed to then-orchestra conductor Rupert Hohmann that they showcase the Symphony by presenting a Viennese Ball. With some coaxing, Hohmann agreed and Bors approached UW-Eau Claire administrators with the idea.
"I believe the Viennese Ball idea started stirring in me while we were in Europe," said Bors. "I remember being in a historic restaurant in Vienna where a small ensemble was playing Viennese waltz music by candlelight and it was so beautiful. When we were touring palaces in Vienna, I could just imagine an elegant ball.
"Finally, I had the courage to express to Rupert my idea to present a Viennese Ball with the purpose being to feature the Symphony Orchestra in a different environment than the formality of a concert hall."
Chancellor Haas supported the idea, seeing it as an opportunity to offer an event that would welcome the greater Eau Claire community to the university, Bors said, adding that promoting positive university-community relations remains the event's primary focus.
"I remember Rupert saying, 'I'll be there and you'll be there. Will anyone else be there?'" said Bors, who hoped the ball would bring more people to University Symphony Orchestra performances. "Rupert ordered music for the first ball and the person he ordered it from wrote back and asked 'Do they really waltz in Eau Claire?'"
The 632 patrons who attended the ball packed the dance floor, enjoying the waltz and polka music provided by the University Symphony Orchestra and the big band era music by Jazz Ensemble I, an already acclaimed ensemble.
Because of the early events' successes, the university agreed to hire Bors at an annual salary of $1,000 to plan it. She worked out of her home most of the time, using a typewriter at home and the top of a copy machine as a desk when she worked on campus. As the ball grew in size, so did Bors' position at the university and she eventually became its full-time special events coordinator, planning things such as commencement, Cabaret and other university-wide events.
By the early 1980s, the ball had become so popular that a second night was added with 1,000 tickets sold each night. Today a variety of university soloists and ensembles are showcased at the ball, with the grand opening featuring the University Symphony Orchestra performing "The Beautiful Blue Danube." The ball always ends shortly after 1 a.m. with an encore performance by the Symphony.
Ticket prices have remained modest to allow as many people including students as possible to attend the ball. Despite those modest prices, each year the event has met the financial goals set by its organizers, sometimes only because of generous donations left by patrons at the coat check, Bors said. Since 1974, the ball has raised more than $537,000 for scholarships, international study awards and direct payments to student musicians and production staff.
The growth of the ball has been among the many happy surprises during the years, Bors said. Many of those who attend the ball were introduced to it by a child who attended it as a student, Bors said, noting that she hears stories of marriage proposals, family or alumni reunions or other happy memories that correlate with the Viennese Ball.
Bors and the ball documented in 1988 as the largest of its kind outside of Austria earned international recognition when Bors was presented with the Johann Strauss Medal and special citations of achievements which promote Vienna from the City of Vienna and the Vienna Tourist Board in 1982. In 1995, Bors was awarded a Decoration of Honor in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria for bringing Austrian tradition and culture to the United States via the Viennese Ball.
Bors said it should be noted that the Viennese Ball couldn't have happened without the help of Hilda Carter-Fletcher, Barbara Pautz, Jo Dahle and all the people who have served on the event's planning committees.
While she remains passionate about the Viennese Ball and hopes it continues to be a UW-Eau Claire tradition, now is the graceful time to exit, Bors said.
"When friends and colleagues ask me to continue with the ball, I reply, 'It's not wise for Cinderella to stay too long at the ball,'" Bors said. "Then they nod in understanding of my decision to retire."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: March 12, 1999