Michael Yanney, Dr. Gail Yanney and Morgan Kristensen

A light rain doesn’t stop last year’s honorees from becoming reacquainted. King Michael Yanney, an Omaha businessman, holds the umbrella for his wife, Dr. Gail Yanney, and Queen Morgan Kristensen on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Kristensen attends UNK, and her father, Doug Kristensen, is chancellor. The UNK bell tower is behind them.

In Hollywood, stars find fame through acting. In the Kingdom of Quivira, “stars” find a quiet satisfaction through service to their communities in philanthropy and volunteerism. They are esteemed for their generosity and commitment.

Oscars don’t come their way. Instead they are recognized at the Aksarben Coronation & Scholarship Ball in a fun yet elegant manner.

Their families are the center of the court of the Kingdom of Quivira — princesses, escorts and pages. The king and queen are selected for leadership in business and philanthropy.

The king is a current business and community leader who has contributed greatly. The queen represents her family and the promise of the youth who will be our future leaders.

“The ball is celebrating philanthropy, volunteerism and civic pride,” said Jeanie Jones, Women’s Ball Committee chairman. “Each family or individual recognized at the coronation is making a positive impact on the community.”

Fittingly, “A Sky Full of Stars” is the theme for the 2015 ball, which will be held Oct. 17. The Women’s Ball Committee plans and implements the ball and all events leading up to it.

The Royal Court will be spiffed up and dressed up coronation week. Ottilia “Tilly” Chapman, owner of Tilly, an Omaha clothing store for women, discovered the princess gown in the showroom of Theia (pronounced thay-uh), a New York fashion label.

“When I saw the fabric and the design, I said, ‘That’s it.’ I loved it,” she said. “It was unusual and beautiful and the way I envisioned it for this year.”

The 50 princesses come from their homes in Nebraska and western Iowa to Tilly at Regency Court for fittings. Although identical in style, each gown is altered to fit short, tall, slim and curvy. The visit is punctuated with oohs and ahhs.

“The young ladies love the gowns,” Chapman said.

Meanwhile, 51 escorts are visiting Mr. Tuxedo for their formal wear, while the pages — 25 girls and 24 boys — are fitted for their traditional costumes with floppy hats framing their cute faces.

“Everyone loves watching the pages,” Jones said. “Their enthusiasm is infectious as they run down the promenade.”

Adding to the evening’s festivities will be New York-based actor, singer and musician Dan Tracy. The Omaha native has performed off-Broadway to positive reviews. Tracy earned a bachelor’s degree in musical theater from Creighton University.


The first coronation ball was in 1895. The ball moved to the Aksarben Coliseum near 63rd and Center Streets in 1928. When the coliseum closed, the event moved in 2003 to the Qwest Center (now CenturyLink Center) near the riverfront.

The event is moving again, this time to the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s new Baxter Arena, across Center Street from the site of the coliseum.

The Aksarben Coronation & Scholarship Ball will be the first public event to be held at UNO’s new facility. The arena will officially open Oct. 23 with a UNO hockey game against Air Force.

“We’re returning to our roots,” Jones said. “It’s a great opportunity for both Aksarben and UNO to show off the beautiful new arena to a new crowd, and we’re lucky to be back home.”


Money raised at the ball supports the Aksarben Scholarship Fund. The fund supports a new scholarship program introduced for 2015. The two-year scholarships are for students looking for careers in fields such as technology, health and trades. The program joins Aksarben’s longtime four-year scholarship program in preparing future workers and leaders.

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