AROUND AND ABOUT: Debutante Ball raises $125,000 for Symphony education programs

There were 51 debutants at the 47th annual Omaha Symphony Guild Debutante Ball on Dec. 27. They were, first row, from left: Jessica Mary Koraleski, Alex Christine Marasco, Rachael Elizabeth Kreski, Anne Marie Keating, Emily Paige Banat, Jessica Lynn Strohmyer, Catelin McKim Hotz, Abigail Ann Bradford, Allison Michelle Braun, Libby Simon Slosburg. Second row, from left: Molly Rose Kroeger, Olivia Coyle Hershiser, Catherine Claire Jerram, Alexandra Christine Peterson, Mary Warner Hoy, Molly Frances Burkley, Katherine Colleen Reilly, Kaitlin Nicole Bacon, Sydney Marie Archer, Marie Taylor Haag, Anna Elizabeth Rosenlof. Third row, from left: Haley Barrett Mathews, Mary Eileen Foxley, Kathryn Joan Nichting, Mackenzie Taylor Magid, Alyssa Nicole Crouse, Morgan Taylor Schumacher, Madeline Caroline Volk, Sally Swanson Hellbusch, Jenna Elizabeth Glass, Hannah Kathleen Tjaden, Talia Layne Simon. Fourth row, from left: Mary Elizabeth Kerrigan, Zoe Elizabeth Ursick, Lauren Elizabeth Boler, Lauren Taylor Krumweide, Sarah Ruth Russell, Ashley Elizabeth Jansen, Emma Coleen Bonebrake, Miranda Arlene Dineen, Robin Taylor Hibbard, Leigh Jacqueline Gustafson. Fifth row, from left: Emma Therese Huerter, Mary Catherine Adele Koraleski, Jessie Anne Pflug, Grace Elizabeth Bartels, Lauren Katherine Meyers, Mara Elizabeth Golden, Anna Christina Hupp, Jessica Margaret Brandl, Marie Elizabeth McNamara.

Like 47 others before it, this year's Omaha Symphony Guild Debutante Ball was heavy on tradition.

Family tradition was present among the 51 debutantes and 41 stags who were presented on Dec. 27 at the Embassy Suites La Vista — many had relatives who were participants in past years. At least one deb, in fact, wore her aunt's gown.

Military tradition was evident among three of the stags who are students at service academies: Kyle Briggs of the U.S. Naval Academy, Christian Mapes of the U.S. Military Academy and Brett Meyer of the U.S. Air Force Academy.

And, of course, the night was all about the tradition of volunteerism. The debutantes, stags and their families were being honored for their support of the Omaha Symphony and other civic and community organizations.

Aaron Carlson Design transformed the hotel ballroom with an elegant twist on the traditional ball colors of black and red.

The room was aglow with lovely crystal candelabras and floating candles in hurricane lamps adorned with fresh red roses, tulips and boxwood wreathes. After the ball, the centerpieces were donated to 31st annual All Academies Ball for Nebraska Cadets and Midshipmen, which was held the following night at the same location.

Chairs were covered in red drape and napkins were tied with red ribbon, embellished with rhinestone buckles. The stage was flanked with fresh boxwood topiaries and hurricane lamps with candles.

The debs wore traditional white gowns and long white gloves, and held presentation nosegays of red roses and tulips embellished with elegant crystal ribbons. Suburban Bridal assisted the debutantes with their dresses.

Debutante Zoe Ursick chose to wear the gown her aunt, Katy Ursick Chattin, wore for the 1992 Debutante Ball.

The dress needed slight alteration to make it a perfect fit, said Zoe's mother, Meg Ursick.

John Ursick, an Omaha restaurateur, presented his daughter just as he did his sister Katy 20 years ago.

The stags, in white ties, tails and gloves, wore traditional red sashes and red rose boutonnieres. Mr. Tuxedo dressed the stags and all the fathers in their event attire.

Tracy Hibbard, mother of deb Robin Hibbard, wore a vintage emerald green gown that she snagged at an estate sale. The gown, originally an Ak-Sar-Ben princess gown from the 1960s, was one of the standouts of the evening.

As many of the traditions endured, another was coming to an end. Organizers thanked master of ceremonies Tom Kerr for his seven years of service. It was his last year as emcee — he decided to retire after the 2012 event.

“I was feeling pretty sentimental about this year,” said Kerr, an Omaha artist and cartoonist whose daughter, Emily, was a deb in 2008. “The Deb Ball is an elegant reminder of the important role of family in the community. It is incredibly rewarding to see sons and daughters in their tuxes and ball gowns representing their families so well.”

Kim Lubeck, the Debutante Ball Committee chairwoman, presented a check for $125,000 to James Johnson, president and CEO of the Omaha Symphony Association, and Becky Wincek, president of the Omaha Symphony Guild. The money will go toward Omaha Symphony educational programs.

The Grand March song was “The Crunchy Granola Suite” from the musical “Fosse.” The debs and stags danced to the song “Sway,” performed by the Robert Glaser Trio, for their presentation, which was choreographed by Sheila Nelson. She was assisted by Jessica Turner.

Debutantes enjoyed the first dance with their fathers; stags and their mothers were dance partners during the second song.

Guests dined on a first-course bundled beet salad with grilled asparagus and pecan-encrusted goat cheese and honey thyme or balsamic vinaigrette. The main course was an Omaha Steaks filet with cabernet sauvignon reduction and gouda au gratin potatoes with broccolini and Parmesan-crusted roma tomatoes. The meal was completed by rich chocolate crisp cake.

After the presentation and dinner, guests and participants danced the evening away.

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The Durham Museum's On Track Guild recently held its annual meeting and brunch at the museum beside the 40-foot Christmas tree in the Great Hall. Phyllis Choat, 2012 On Track president, led the meeting. Wendy Larson-Cooper was chairwoman for the brunch.

A highlight was the “Sweet 16” celebration of the guild's years with the museum. Choat recognized all past presidents of the guild. Jean Salerno, first On Track president, shared a few memories from the early years.

Following the brunch, Choat and outgoing treasurer Diane Falk presented a check for $56,000 to Christi Janssen, the museum's executive director. The money was raised from the “Brass, Boots, Buttons and Braids” luncheon and from guild memberships. It will help underwrite the recent 2012 Ethnic Holiday Festival and “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power,” an exhibition from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum that opens at the Durham in February.

Choat then passed the “Lantern” to 2013 president Beth Kramer, who introduced the 2013 executive committee. Members are Kyle Robino, president-elect; Sandra Ekwall, Jackie Quigley, Suzanne Kotula, Karen Nelsen and Tami Giitter, vice presidents; Vicki Warner and Kathy Gross, secretaries; Sheila McNeill, treasurer; and Choat, adviser.

For more information about the Durham Museum and On Track Guild, go to or call 402-444-5071.

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