Paula Stuettgen Interview




Paula Stuettgen discusses her role in planning, advising, and designing posters for the Viennese Ball, as well as instructing dance lessons for the Ball. Following this, Stuettgen talks about the early days of the Ball, such as differences between the new and old Davies Center and traditions that have come and gone. Struggles of planning the Viennese Ball are also examined, such as pushing legislation to allow alcohol to be served at the event.


Interviewers Erin Hall and Evan Gunseor


April 17, 2019



EH: This is Erin Hall interviewing Paula Stuettgen for the Sounds of Eau Claire oral history project. I’m joined by Evan Gunseor. This interview is taking place at McIntyre Library on April 17, 2019 and the time is 3:45 on the dot. Ok Paula, first can I get your name and spelling on audio?

PS: Sure. My name is Paula J Stuettgen.

EH: Ok. First can you tell me a little about your family and childhood?

PS: Sure. I grew up on a farm north-west of Milwaukee around the town of Erin, actually.
It’s a very Kettle Moraine hilly area. Lots of farms there. Great golf course there, they just had one of the opens down there a couple of years ago, and it’s a beautiful area. Dairy farming. And then I went to college at UW Eau Claire.

EH: What did your parents do?

PS: My dad was a farmer and my mom was a stay at home mom. She also did all the books for the farm, so she was an equal partner in the farming. She knew where the money was.

EH: What impact did your childhood have on your life?

PS: Oh, I guess an appreciation of nature, an appreciation of the environment. My dad was one of the original ‘organic’ guys. Um, an appreciation for education because my parents really encouraged me to go to college and because neither of them had that opportunity, and so they were very insistent that I go and that I travel and learn things about the international world, so that was my background and impact. I was interested in everything.

EH: Can I get your parent’s names as well?

PS: Sure. Grace and Norbert. She was Grace Larsen, Norwegian Larsens. Norbert, like the dragon in Harry Potter. Hagrid’s dragon.

EH: So, can I just get a brief overview of your education, career, and adult life?PS: Sure. My education was, oh, I completed high school at Hartford Union High School in the
south-eastern part of the state. Then I went right away to UW Eau Claire because A: I really wanted to go to Madison, but my parents wouldn’t let me because that was during the era when they were blowing up buildings and things. There was that unfortunate incident in the 70’s where, um, one of the science buildings was blown up in Madison by protesters. Well, that’s another historical thing but that has nothing to do with- that has a lot to do with why I came to Eau Claire and didn’t get to go to Madison; my parents were just not having it.

EH: So then, what about your adult life?

PS: Um, well I went to Eau Claire, then I did graduate school up at UW Stout, and then I got a job here in 1977 and I got married to someone I met in college, here at Eau Claire in 1977, and I just worked here at UW Eau Claire in various aspects of student development, student activities, and student affairs, for the rest of my time, but I was also very active in a lot of volunteer activities, and so that’s kind of- I don’t know how I had time to have a job now, but anyways.

EG: If I could just ask, what were your majors in graduate school and undergraduate?

PS: In high school, I was an exchange student in Peru. So, I came to UW Eau Claire because it had a very good Spanish and Latin American studies program, so I comprehensive majored in Latin American Studies with a major in Spanish, and I also majored in Sociology, and then I had a minor- no I just had the three majors


EG: Three majors?

PS: Well it was, they crossed over really well and they were- I had a lot of fun. And I was
fortunate in that I had an RA job, so I didn’t have to work off campus. And back when I was in school, it was four thousand bucks for two years- or for two semesters, so, and that included room and board, and plus I had an RA job, so things really worked out well. And then I just took some summer school, so I got out in four years.

EH: What did you go to graduate school for?

PS: Um, higher education administration. Because once I got out of college, I realized I really didn’t want to go work in Bolivia. Or teach. I really did not want to teach anything younger than eighteen years old. I really prefer adult education, so college was better.

EH: So now we are going to get into the Viennese Ball aspect of this. So how did you first
become involved with the ball?

PS: Um, I was a very active student in Davies center, doing a lot with student senate and the um, what was then called the activities- wait- it was social and cultural commission, the social commission of the student senate. And because I knew a lot of the staff when all of a sudden, they decided to take on trying to run a Viennese ball, they asked some of the involved students if they would help out. I happened to know how to do a process called silk screening of posters, which is a very tedious process. Now it’s so much easier to do printing with regular print services, but they wanted me to do the first ball posters. So, I was free labor, and I did a two-color screen; it was awful, it was really hard.

EG: What was making those posters like?

PS: It was, well they still do silk screening today over in the art department, so you can see it. You have an emulsification where you essentially burn an image into photo gel with a burner, and then you wash it kind of like a photograph. Then all the part that was burned falls off, then you place it on a screen, and then you push ink through the screen and it comes through as a poster. If you want to do colors, or more than one color, you have to mask with masking tape off the part that you don’t want and then let the poster dry, and then re-do the poster with everything else masked except the color part. There was a red rose on that darn poster that drove me crazy, but anyway.

EH: Can you tell me what the poster looked like?

PS: It was yellow, yellow poster board. Let’s see, eleven by twenty-two, no, fourteen by twenty-two, black ink announcing the Viennese Ball, with a red rose. It was very old school, but that was the only thing you could do back then. They silk screen t-shirts now, I mean it’s the same kind of thing, if you watch someone silk screen a t-shirt, it’s the same thing. Awful.

EH: So, we also found some research that you were in charge of dance lessons, getting those started?

PS: Yes, I did, I was asked. Again, in phy-ed, one of my favorite teachers was Ida Hintz, and she was a great ballroom dancer. She was interested in offering Viennese waltz lessons, because at the first couple of years, the event took place, and everyone realized, everyone who knew what they were doing realized that a lot of people here had no idea how to Viennese waltz because it’s a much faster waltz; it’s not a box step 1-2-3 it’s a forward and back rocking motion, 2-3-4, 2-3-4. It was in self defense for many of the planners of the ball to ask for people to learn how to dance ahead of time. Ida was asked, and I knew her well, so we worked together and just set up Tuesday and Thursday or Monday and Thursday classes before the Viennese Ball for about four weeks, and people would not only learn the Viennese waltz, but the regular waltz, the foxtrot, the cha-cha, and sometimes she would throw in a Schottische, so people could enjoy
the polka garden.

EH: What’s a Schottische?

PS: Schottische? Oh well it’s a German folk dance. It’s done with two pairs, and you hold hands and then you kind of do this circle thing around, where the other pair that was behind comes in front. It’s a fancier version of a polka, but it’s cute, it’s fun. Those were the dance lessons, and they were very, very popular, and we would fill them up and people would learn how to dance.

EH: So, were they popular right off the bat?

PS: Yes, because people who wanted to go really wanted to be able to dance.

EH: And dancing was the key aspect of the Ball?

PS: The music was the key aspect, but when you’re listening to all those wonderful waltzes, you can’t help but dance. It’s part of dressing up. It is Eau Claire’s biggest prom, and everybody is really dressed up. And to not dance, some people choose not to and that’s just fine they prefer to watch, but there is the polka garden going, and there’s all the waltzers and you have to try it at least once.

EH: So, what was the Ball like in those early days, in the very first few years?

PS: The very first few years we had, well, we had the challenge of the old Davie’s center before even, well I don’t know, you don’t even remember the old Davie’s center. But there had been a major addition to it after we had already started the ball, so it was really great to have two spaces for dancing, which the first couple of years we did not; it was just the ballroom, and then a little tiny area where the polka garden was, but that was always the crammed part because everyone knew how to polka because we are in Wisconsin. Once we had the addition, we were able to branch out into the two areas where you had the polka garden, the main ballroom dance, which alternated of course the orchestra and the jazz ensemble, so you had not only the waltzing, but also the two step and you know all those types of things, and the, what is the, the lindy, the dances from the jazz era. And now you will see those at the Gatsby ball, the Gatsby Gala you will see a lot of that type of dancing. There were also a lot of extra little rooms that we
tried to have some musical surprises or you know, there was a piano bar where you could sing along, they’d have song books, so some of the folks that just weren’t that comfortable with dancing would go in there and there was a little bar, and there was a piano so they could request songs and we had a musician who was able to do that, accommodate that. And then, it got so big we had to go to two nights, because it used to only be one. It was always on a Saturday, then we added a Friday, and then in the old Davie’s center we also had always been limited to just the second floor, and then finally started expanding into the lower floor, where there was the Cabin and now what is now the marketplace in this building, I think it used to be called the Blugold room. We expanded in those areas to have more music going on. The Cabin was a jazz interlude, strictly small jazz combos, and then the larger part of the Blugold is where we put eventually all the a cappella groups, as they continued to multiply.


EH: Something we noticed in the earlier years, there was something called the Card room. What happened in the card room?

PS: Card room? Card room…

EH: I think it was playing cards, right?

PS: Wow!

EH: Do you remember that?

PS: No clue. Wow, a card room.

EH: I think, I can look later to see if I have a picture of the program.

PS: That had to be way long ago, and I can’t, I don’t know.

EH: We are going to go into your involvement as a staff. What did you first start taking on as a staff and board member?

PS: I don’t know if I ever really sat on the actual committee, I was always, once I got the job as staff, my office mate was Ada Bors, who was the originator of the ball, so there was no way you could not be involved in the ball, because just by proximity you were involved. But let’s see. I continued working with the dance lessons, and I continued working with the coordination of the usher core efforts, because you know we used a lot of the usher core, the event production crew. And then I also, then much later on, that’s when I took on handling the acapella groups, because at first there were just a few of them, there were the innocent men, and the other guys.

EH: The Singing Statesmen?

PS: Oh no, the Singing Statesmen were always featured in the pre-show. So before, at the opening of the ball, you would have concerts by the Singing Statesmen, and later was added the concert choir, and perhaps I believe the woman’s choral. That was the opening of the ball, then they would introduce the members of the committee formally over the loudspeaker, and everybody would come up, kind of like a grand march, and the first opening waltz would be the beautiful Blue Danube, and that would be danced first by just the committee, for the first round, then everybody was invited to join for the opening of the ball. In the acapella rooms, again that was smaller groups. That was, oh, the Innocent men, and who are the other ones there? And now there’s a women’s group. There were a number of acapella groups that were… not 5th dimension but something like that, 5th element! Ha! Anyway, and so, as again as acapella took over as a very popular thing, that room got very over crowded, so I proposed, that’s when we started moving everything to downstairs and upstairs, just to accommodate all of the crowds in the building. And the acapella groups got to have there very own space which was a
very large stage in a very large venue, on the lower floor, so it worked out.


EH: Again, looking through archival information, we saw that you were on security?

PS: That was the usher core.

EH: So, what was that involved with?

PS: Well, there was a lot to do with coat check. One year we did accidentally mix up and lost a mink because someone got a mink that shouldn’t have, and they didn’t bring it back. But essentially, um, there was somewhat security. It was watching the doors, as ushers do, take the tickets, make sure no one walks out with a beer. Make sure the people who were the proper age had wristbands, were identified, essentially making sure that everything ran well, and that if somebody did have an emergency, you know like a heart failure or something like that. Oh, that happens all the time; commencement is the dangerous one. But anyway, the usher core were all very well versed in emergency procedures, crowd control. Essentially, it’s a very civilized crowd, but you know, some people get a little bit goofy, or some of the younger musicians tend to drink by the bottle instead of by the glass, things like that. So, it’s just a matter of maintaining order. That was all the security was; it wasn’t like a music festival. I’ve done that, but it was not at all like that.

EH: Do you have any memorable moments about security?

PS: Besides giving away a mink by accident?

EH: You mentioned heart failure, did any big accidents happen?

PS: Not at the ball itself that I’m aware of. I do believe that Chancellor Hibbard passed away at either a rehearsal, or at sometime around the Viennese Ball. But other than that, no. No, it was usually just trying to keep some of our happier patrons from stealing the centerpieces, which were geraniums. That kind of thing. They go walking out and it was like, uh no. Sorry. Just those types of things, nothing too tragic, nothing too shocking. Although, it was, you know, we had, I think, I don’t know if you would know this, having looked through the ball, but we had to get special legislative approval to have alcohol in Davie’s Center for the ball. Actually, that evening, in the state of Wisconsin, Chancellor Haas was running the biggest bar in the state of Wisconsin.

EH: Really?

PS: Really!

EH: What was it like getting that legislation through?

PS: Hard! It was very difficult. But because the whole event was so high culture, and it
was so much supported by the community, as well as the University, and it was a music scholarship program, so it wasn’t like we were just having a beer fest, it was like fine wine and fine dining and the whole atmosphere would just be enhanced by it all. And allowing all the people to comingle without being so over the top worried about, things, was really what the intent was. It was not easy to get that. But um, the director of this university center, Johannes Dahl went to bat for everybody, and he was very convincing about how we could run a civilized event without having to fence everybody apart.


EH: Another thing we found through archival information was, I want to say it was in the 70’s at some time, it was a stack of student surveys that were given out. Do you remember anything about the student surveys?

PS: We were always big about surveys. We would always ask for input and things and a lot of the things that we did in the Viennese Ball, it was community and university sponsored, but the emphasis was always on what the students thought of it. The students always got a price break, of course, because it was all about getting the students to go to it, because the community and University faculty would sell it out, and then there wouldn’t be any space for the students if you didn’t hold back for them. So, a lot of the time we asked the students how they felt, because it really was in their student center that we were kind of messing it up for a weekend, so their input was very, very important. I do know that it was the students that were really very intent on making it two nights for more accessibility and more tickets to be available, and the students
were also, well, the students were very participatory on the committee as well, so the surveys would give them more information on how the students really reacted, but the students loved it, so.

EH: Do you remember if there was anything the students disliked about the ball each year? Or heavily contested things?

PS: No, it wasn’t a big controversy thing. It’s one of those social events that’s just, its fun. It doesn’t cost anybody anything, except to go, and it raises scholarship funds for international and music scholarships, so it’s pretty much a win-win, and people have a great time at it. You know, there will be issues about, some years it was so hot, and we couldn’t turn on the air conditioning because it was April and it wasn’t allowed by the state for the state buildings to turn on air conditioning, and all this other stuff. Sometimes it was too cold. Sometimes parking was impossible, so we started doing valet service and those types of things, so, they were the typical issues of a campus; the buildings are too hot or too cold, and there’s no parking. That was about it.

EH: So, speaking along problems, were there any other problems with the ball? We’ve heard about possible sexism with in the ball committee, do you know anything about that?

PS: Being a feminist myself, well let’s see. Well, the whole idea… the whole idea was thought of by a woman who was very forceful and had very great support from the gentleman who she proposed it to, as well as another one of her friends, Barb… Barb, Will and Barb…

EH: Pautz?

PS: Pautz! That’s it! Will and Barb Pautz. Anyways, um, sexism, I don’t know. There were a lot of couples that served from the committee, so you would have your typical crazy Joe with his wife Margaret, and all that kind of stuff, but it was all, I don’t know that sexism was as much a problem as perhaps some of the old guard not understanding youthful. Sometimes when you have the grandparent age group planning things and then they see how the students come in and they get kind of protective of their little spaces and things and their decorations. There might have been some controversy there. As far as sexism, I really, you know, the music world is very sexist anyways. Most of your orchestra is going to be guys, most of your jazz ensemble is going to be guys. All of the statesmen are guys. The women’s ensemble did not get asked the first few years, because they weren’t out there. In the 70’s it was real easy to ignore the ladies. Now it is less so. I don’t think it was probably a conscious thing, it might have very well been a
very… an Austrian culture is heavily male dominant, I’m sorry, but Austria is not known for progressivism.

EH: Just to finish getting like the bad stuff out of the way now so we can focus on the good things later, is there anything else that stuck out as not being too favorable? Or that made you unhappy? We want to get the happy stuff along with the controversial to get a full story.

PS: The controversial and unhappy stuff would be that sometimes people, the committee was so invested in this event, students, staff, community alike, that sometimes there would be hard feelings about, somebody would feel slighted, or a change was not to their liking. Sometimes people would just quit the committee in a snit, you know the typical event planning kind of thing. Some people would be storing some of the event artifacts or things at their home, and then they would quit the committee and wouldn’t give us the fountain back, you know those kinds of things, but they are, that’s part of human relations, that’s part of the big picture, and really, in essence, it was always all about the students and the progress of money for scholarships, was really what was very, very satisfying to many of the people. The committee was very invested, and that was probably the thing that caused the most angst and the most disagreement, but, it was just so much theirs.

EG: When you were involved on the committee, did you find yourself getting pulled into that polarizing…

PS: No no no, I was just that student who was just like oh they’re crazy. But then later on when I was a staffer, I was just kind of one of the make it work, you know, make it so kind of thing. And then my husband, I stopped being on the committee, and then my husband became involved because we both loved to dance and we both went all the time. He became involved as the buyer and the merchandiser for the Edelweiss market which was the market where they sold all kinds of Austrian items and German items, and breads, and bohemian ovens would make all these assorted beautiful breads and things, then they’d sell those. So, I was involved. Once I was off the committee, he got involved, so I was just always involved one way or another

EH: Since you spoke about the Edelweiss Market, I think it’s a great time to transition into that. Can you give us an overview of what it was and…?

PS: Sure! It was a bunch of, it really was a very creative, it was one room, and I don’t know if it still exists because I haven’t been to the ball since they moved to Davie’s, but it was one room that was dedicated, it was, the committee would create this wonderful little set of shops. It was a bunch of little flats, you know like a set, a movie set, with red and white canopies, and then under here would be a fruit display and here would be a wall of crystal, Austrian crystal. And then there would be the little tchotchkes, you know like the little straw things and all the little wax things you can buy.


PS: The Bohemian and Austrian kind of... tourist stuff and really cute, really clever, really well made, and it was all brought in, it was all imported from Austria and Germany so he would just be the one who would buy it and make sure the inventory was done and make sure the ushers were well versed on how to work the cash register- we didn’t have squares and all those cool things back then, it was just cash registers and it was just fun and people could buy things and then at the end of the evening they could come pick them up so it was like they were checked for them and they didn’t have to drag around their crystal all night.

EH: So would your husband go to Austria to get these items?

PS: We usually ordered but we did go to the manufacturers place in Austria once

EH: Okay so what was his process for looking for things to sell?

PS: He usually went with Redal which is a well known crystal maker and then they would just send him suggestions of things that might be of interest to the market and then he would pick some. And he wasn’t a big buyer because you couldn’t sell a lot of stuff, but...

EH: So how many things were sold usually each year?

PS: I think they did an inventory of about 4000 dollars each night, but then that’s the inventory, that’s the sales and then you know your pay for what you sold so it was a nice little extra. It was a way for people to buy something, a memento of the ball.

EG: I think I also read in the later years there was a lot of interest in bread and tarts at the market

PS: OH always the tortes

EH: Tortes, that’s the word.

PS: and the bread was in the Edelweiss Markt, that was the bread that was at first made by local bakery- I think it was Randal's which is no longer with us, it was a grocery store. And then Bob, my husband located bohemian ovens which is in Bloomer or something- they're really close to here, and they make wonderful- and they would always do wonderful special breads for us and then people would at the end of the ball, you could go in to the Edelweiss markt and buy bread. And the tortes had always been a big deal that was one of the committee things you could get access to tickets, you know you had to buy them but you could get access ahead of time if you contributed a torte so into our office would come marching a hundred tortes and they were beautiful I mean you had the lady finger tortes and you had the soccer tortes and you had all the raspberry tortes and just beautiful things that peoples spent lots of time on and then we’d get all the food service coolers and we’d stick them in there as they came in and that was a great contribution by our community members. They just loved making those tortes.
After a number of years that just kind of got cumbersome and food service didn’t make any money on it, so then they offered to provide all the tortes, but they still make some of the traditional- the linzer tortes, the soccer tortes, and I think we might still have some people that, well I do know that we used a lot of the New York times cookbook torte recipes because they’re quite wonderful. But now I think food service or dinning services handles all the tortes, but they’re still a favorite. There’s good coffee, good tasters plates, and good tortes.

EH: Can you talk about your experience with the acapella coordination, and when was acapella really involved in the V-ball, like what year did they first start if you can pin point it.

PS: It would have been by the late 70s. I know the innocent men were the first ones- they were the first spin off from the statesmen that was just an acapella group because Ada, who was the originator of the Viennese ball, was a big fan of the acapella group the innocent men so they were always in her office, which was cute.


PS: And then I think she eventually got them into the musical surprises room which was a room where every once in a while you’d have- when you were taking a break from all the dancing and everything else you could just go in and sit and there’d be a string quartet playing some of the fact de feature some of the other musicians that weren’t necessarily in the orchestra or jazz ensemble or whatever. And so I think they started probably late 70s or very early 80s to introduce acapella as one of the popular things or one of the musical surprises. Then it got really popular and then more acapella groups started popping up, so then we just used Davies theater, which is on the other end of the building as just strictly five acapella groups playing 20 minutes and a change over so that every half hour. Then that got so crowded because it was at the same area as the entry to the ballroom itself, so, at the changing of the acapella shift we basically blew up the rest of the orchestra, so then we just moved downstairs. And why was I asked to work with it? Because I knew good sound people and because I was not as fond of acapella as many other people were, so I was not blown away by the egos and everything that
go with that type of music- I mean every musician has ego and I don’t criticize that, but its just when you have sort of competitive small groups, and you’ll see that to this day in acapella groups, you just need somebody who can just take the reins and say okay get on the stage practice, get off the stage now you’re done, and that type of thing and it was fine, but that’s why I did it, because it was part of what I did as my job anyway during the rest of the time as coordinator of student activities worked with bands and everything like that, so it was just natural for me and it was the same with the jazz combos in the cabin because I had advised the cabin for many, many years, so when we wanted to open up that space as another musical area on the first floor it was just natural, I knew all the jazz musicians who were in combos, so natural progression from my job.

EH: Lets go on to the setup of the ball, what was it like setting up for it, was it hectic?

PS: It was very intense, but very planned. Everything would come out of storage the weekend before the ball and essentially much of Davies center was shut down just for all the setup, especially some of the meeting and things or some of the meeting rooms were just crammed with all the furniture that we had to find a place for to get it out of the way, but it would be about a week of set up, so it would be a week of disruption of some areas of the student center, but each subcommittee had its little thing and they would plan all year what they were going to use for their décor and what they were going to reuse that had been in storage and they would just go to town and by Friday afternoon everything was ready, it was always- we never had a big panic about we’re not ready, so they planned well.

EH: Really impressive. Let’s go on to the night of the ball, what was it like working it?

PS: That could be hectic, sometimes. This student center has a better layout, the old one was very much a train, a box car, everything was funneled down one hallway, so the crowds in the hallway would get really intense, especially when there was a break between the one end where the polka band was or the polka garden, and the symphony, so even though the symphony alternated with the jazz ensemble some people didn’t like jazz and so they’d go to the polka garden so there was a lot of cross traffic. It was the crowding until we opened the lower level it was very, very crowded and very, very, hot a lot of the time. The ball was always fun, but you really needed to keep moving to be able to take it all in. If you just stayed in one place you’d kind of get trapped.

EH: While working it did you ever get a chance to experience it and have fun.

PS: Yes, when I was a student especially, I’d had fun. And then the first couple of years when I wasn’t on the committee and Bob was working with the market but then we would be able to have a great time. And as it expanded more, we both got really more into the production part and didn’t have as much dancing time, but we would always make time for that.


PS: That was the reason we all kept going, was just we really liked to dance.

EH: Let’s go on to the takedown of the ball, what was it like cleaning it up?

PS: Wow, okay. That’s when we used a lot of the Davies staff because almost everybody who had been planning and putting it up were so exhausted they could hardly walk, but the staff of Davies center including all the custodians and all the student helps would just on Saturday night right after the ball closed we would try to get things put away or at least put in places. All the flowers would go into one room because then there’d be a sale the next morning of all the leftover flowers and plants that had been used for décor. And you just get everything kind of into its place in the evening or at night about 3AM so that everybody could come back about 9AM on Sunday and start hauling things away and taking things back to storage and putting things, reassembling all the lounge spaces that had been taken over for other purposes and so by Sunday afternoon it would all be back to normal.

EH: Wow, and how many days was it to set up?

PS: Took about a week to set up, about five/six days to set up and about 24 hours to get it down.

EH: Wow.

PS: It’s always easier to tear things apart than put them up. Sometimes we would still find a hammer above one of the ceiling tiles that somebody had just set up there and the next year you found it again and it’s like oh, that’s where that went.

EH: These are just little specific snippets that we found?

PS: I’m just dying to know about that card room.

EH: Me too! I’ll check that in a second. One year we saw, again through archival information, that you or the committee wanted to contact Vienna and the mayor of Vienna to invite him to the ball, did he ever show up?

PS: We have had many years when the US representative from Austria has been here, but I don’t think the mayor of Vienna has ever been here, but I’m not sure of that. I know we always invited them, but we’ve had lots of dignitaries from Austria here.

EH: What was it like for them?

PS: They always had VIP treatment and they would be shown around and they would sit at a special table and the Bohrs and a number of the committee members would make sure they hosted them very nicely.

EH: So what all entailed VIP treatment?

PS: Well, I guess they got to go to the pre... there was a dinner for just the committee folks ahead of time in one of the dinning areas and then they would get to meet- the chancellor would be sure to say hi and the university dignitaries would be sure they were taken care of and that they had a great time and that they were able to get out to dance and see all the different dance areas and learn about how we put it together. They would be special guests for the whole evening and that was nice.

EH: I think we also saw that the governor came one year.

PS: Yeah, at least one year.

EH: Did he come multiple years?

PS: Lets see, which one would it have been... would have been Tommy Thompson, no. Lee
Sherman Dreyfus I think came LSD. I think he was... Although Tommy Thompson was a very social sort of guy, he’s from around here so it could have been, I’m not sure.

EH: Do you know of any other notable figures off the top of your head who have been to the Viennese ball?

PS: Not off the top of my head, but I’m sure there were many Austrian contacts that were made because I know Ada was very good about making sure that there were important people invited to just see that oh yeah we can do one of those here too.

EH: One more thing going along with that, on another committee report it was stated that someone was going to put in a request to national geographic to be featured.

PS: Yeah that never happened. We had a lot of good ideas, but you know.

EH: Okay, we’re going to go on to some big reflections I think... What major changes to the ball stood out to you?

PS: The major changes was just the incredible expansion of the event from a small 800 patron event, but it was very intensely community, university collaborative, but it was small and very lovely and it continued to be lovely, but it just grew and grew and grew and it features more and more aspects of the music department than we had ever dreamed of.


PS: We still always had to order out for the polka bands because we just don’t feature that in our music department. But, truly the expansion of just the showcasing of student talent was incredible, it really was, and the level of expertise the students would show was amazing too, they would really work hard.

EH: I don’t think the Edelweiss markt is there anymore, do you have any reflections on that?

PS: It was great fun, it was a wonderful thing, but it was a thing that the committee really
worked hard on and I don’t know that there are community people on the committee anymore.

EH: Oh really.

PS: I don’t know. The committee has undergone a lot of changes that I’ve heard and I’m not sure, but I don’t think there is the volunteer level of involvement and dedication, I think now it’s mostly staff run and running a market like that- it takes a bookstore staff, you know on a very small scale, but that’s just not something everybody does.

EH: What are your opinions on the changes with the committee?

PS: I think it was intended to be community and university collaborative and if that has been lost I think that would be a true shame. I know it’s hard to deal with volunteers and I know administrators get lazier and lazier as we go along and if we can just, oh those volunteers lets just do it ourselves. I’d hate to see that happen, but that does happen, that’s normal human nature.

EH: So, what makes the Viennese ball a special event?

PS: I think it’s the tremendous amount of music that is featured, the tremendous popularity for all age groups to mingle, it’s very intergenerational and it’s the opportunity for students to experience almost a professional level of performance, and our music school is very good at that, but this really gives them a venue right here on campus to showcase.

EH: So what is the value of it to the university?

PS: To the university it’s a good chance to, again, showcase our student talent and showcase our faculty and to invite the community in to have some ownership in this university by saying yeah there is an event that we go to all the time and it’s just a nice way to bring folks on campus.

EH: So what’s the value of it to university students then?

PS: Scholarships, performance opportunities, and a chance to have a good time dancing, or eating, and dressing up. What other event, now there are newer ones, but there used to be nothing else where you would dress up, dress to the 9s and go out dancing.

EH: I’ll get back to this in a second, but where did people get ballgowns for the time?

PS: Bridal shops.

EH: Okay.

PS: And we would even have a time before the ball when some of the bridal shops would bring in dresses for people to try on and things like that in one of the rooms in Davies center. And bringing those in, that was even worse than tortes.

EH: We’re going to go back to the value question one more time, what’s the value of it to the community?

PS: To the community it’s an introduction to a culture that they may or may not know, the Austrian culture, the beauty of Europe, the beauty of the music the importance of some of the Mozart and Braum all those folks and a chance to enjoy just an evening out in a very... there’s dancing in so many areas that there are very few places where that can be accomplished in this town. There are more now than there used to be, but there are actual dance floors here which is nice, you know and the ballrooms. And the food service is a quality food service they don’t have to cater in from everywhere else it’s right there in house and so it’s a lovely way for someone from the community to just come in and have a lovely evening, have a good time, come with friends, come solo if you want to it’s not something were you have to have a posy or a date, you can just come and enjoy and I think the community appreciates that the university still invites the community in for something this special.

EH: Another question that’s coming to me now, was there ever a time in the night when it would switch to modern music?

PS: Nope.


PS: Well, we had been known to feature a little Jamiroquai down in the jazz room you know in the cabin, but that was jazz combo so that was more contemporary but no, you were never going to get grunge, indie, anything not for this, this was waltz, jazz ensemble music, it was the era and then polka so it was very folk oriented because really the folk traditions of the waltz, the folk traditions of the lindy, the two step, the fox trot those types of things, the traditions of the polka.

EH: What, if you can pin point a few, are your most memorable moments or things you look back fondly on?

PS: I would love the opening of the ball because we’d get to dance and that was great fun and then that was when there were fewer people on the dance floor so you weren’t getting stepped on all the time you could just kind of really cut loose and my husband was a very, very good Viennese waltzer so we could do the little twirls and all that kind of stuff and all I had to do was follow so that was great fun, that was one of my favorite things. Another big favorite was hanging out down in the cabin where there was jazz because I really enjoyed that, and going to the sing-alongs in the piano bar was always really kind of fun, and then there was the thunder and lightning polka- that's where you go from one end to the other of the room of the dancefloor with this polka thing and when you were downstairs you could hear the people thumping around. I loved doing the thunder and lightning polka because it was just wild and of course there was always the chicken dance, but I was not fond of that, but anyway that was also a tradition, but those were fun things and we would always come home with a piece of crystal, nice crystal bowls and things like that so Bob always made sure we got to get some of
the left overs. If there was inventory left we’d buy it, but it always turned out nice so those were some of my favorite things and we’d always have a tasters plate with interesting little cheese balls and things like that on it so the food was pretty good, I’m not bratwurst person but the first one of the year at the ball was good, that was okay.

EH: Do you have any specific memory from a certain year? Or is it all just general, and that’s okay if it’s all just general.

PS: Nope, I guess not, its all just general because each year we’d always try and do something a little bit different, but the important thing was to keep it the same as much as possible so people knew what to expect. Oh, another big favorite I had was watching the ice carvers create the ice carvings in the loading dock outside while they were chopping away at all the ice and then bringing them in. I loved watching ice carvers create the carvings, then put them away in the freezer until we took them out for the night. You’d need a different one or a new one for both nights because they’d melt down over the course of the evening so you always had to double up on your ice.

EH: Were they always the same ice sculpture each night?

PS: Yes, but they would feature different ones in different years, many times there were swans because the swan is the symbol of Vienna. Then there were times when there were violins and Strauss and there were just all kinds of things like that, it was fun, it depended on what the ice carver, who was a food service employee wanted to do.

EH: Okay, I’m going to take a moment to look at my phone and see if I have a picture of the map for the card room.

PS: Okay, I’ve got to see this. I can’t even imagine, of course you know knowing Marian and Joe and Bender they might have wanted to play cards.

EH: I think I took one of a later year where the card room was removed which is a bummer

PS: Well, it’ll just give you a little Indiana Jones thing to go search for because man, I have no recollection of that, but if it was the very first year that was the year that I did not go and then I went every year after that because that was the year I think I told you guys about Frank Zappa was in the arena that night so I was there.

EH: Yeah, okay, our final question is if there is anything else you would like to mention or talk about that we might have missed?

PS: Just the importance of the collaboration between the university and community, that was, you haven’t missed that, but that was really the reason for it, the reason to do an international oriented event that brought together the university and the community to benefit students.


PS: That was the big thing behind it all and whether it was the egos of the committee members or who was arguing about which music to use or was the orchestra director being stubborn, those types of things, those all just fell away to make the grander picture so that was really neat.

EH: Awesome.

PS: And it still is a great thing, I think. Someday I should go.

EH: Yeah, when was the last time you went to the ball?

PS: Let’s see, 2008 we went and then we were set to go back 2011, not to be a bummer, but my husband passed away the week before the ball, so we didn’t go.

EH: I’m sorry to hear that.

PS: Well thank you, but it was odd. The timing was bad, but that was the year we were going to go back was 2011, but it didn’t happen, so, and I have walked through it once in a while and I used to show up to buy the flowers the next morning anyway because they were good for the garden, then I moved to an apartment so...

EH: Okay, that is all I have.

PS: Okay, you got anything Evan?

EG: Nope, that’s good thanks again for your interview.

PS: Sure, my pleasure

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