The Ottumwa Courier

November 30, 2012

Dance the night away at Symphony Ball

Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — Twenty-five years ago, the Board of Directors for the Ottumwa Symphony Orchestra wanted to create an event that would showcase the talents of the local symphony members and serve as a fundraiser for the newly formed community orchestra. Cheri Miller and Nancy Emanuel had just the idea — the Ottumwa Symphony Ball, a holiday event that has been celebrated annually since.

According to Emanuel, what is now a large and extravagant evening started as small idea shared by 10 women who thought Ottumwa could use a holiday dinner and dance. The women — Sue Meadows, Mary Von Schrader, Suzanne Brindley, Penny Berg, Phyllis Carpenter, Cloma Gates, Kay Huston, Dottie Donovan, Diane Paluska, Stella MeKeown, Cheri Miller and Nancy Emanuel — formed the Ottumwa Symphony Guild to make the ball a reality.

The women of the first Symphony Guild had their work cut out for them. The first few Christmas balls were held at the Hellyer Student Life Center on the Indian Hills Community College campus.  

“We had to work around the basketball practices, put a tarp on the floor, decorate a very large space and bring in food from another building and figure out how to keep it warm,” said Emanuel.

Despite these challenges, the first Christmas Ball was a success. As the ball grew, the venue shifted into the dining room at Indian Hills and later to its current home at the Bridge View Center.

Today, the ball continues to feature local musicians and offer holiday music, dinner and dancing in a festively decorated atmosphere. Although many faces in the guild have changed over the years, Emanuel and Miller have remained.

“The evening is uniquely different from other fundraisers. It gives adults the opportunity to put on their finery and dance to beautiful symphony music,” Emanuel said.

This year’s Christmas Ball is scheduled for Dec. 8. Appetizers and cocktails will begin at 6 p.m., with dinner at 8 p.m. and dancing to the orchestra at 9 p.m. The evening will feature several local vocalists and musicians. The Ottumwa Symphony Christmas Ball is a formal, black-tie-optional event. Everyone is invited to attend; however, reservations must be made soon. The cost is $60 per ticket. Proceeds benefit the Ottumwa Symphony Orchestra.

To RSVP and for more information, call 641-777-7769 or email