Monday, April 14, 2014

A spring Homecoming: 40th annual Viennese Ball

From left: Karl Markgraf, director of UW-Eau Claire's Center
for International Education; and Kim and Chancellor James
Schmidt applaud student scholarship recipients announced
during the 40th annual Viennese Ball.
Do we really have to wait a whole year for the next Viennese Ball?

That's what my wife and I were asking each other Sunday morning after enjoying two extraordinary evenings filled with incredible music, dancing, wonderful food and delightful people of all ages.

Simply put, our first Viennese Ball was so much fun that we already are counting down the days until we can enjoy it all over again next year.

I loved the diversity of people that this wonderful event brings together. People of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life came together because of their love for music and dancing.

It was great to see our students all dressed up — they looked amazing in their formal gowns and tuxes. Even more impressive was how ready and willing they were to embrace traditional kinds of dance and music. It was so much fun to watch them!

Chancellor James Schmidt congratulates Bruce Larson, a
decades-long fan, friend and spirited attendee of the Viennese
Ball. Bryce was presented with an Honorary Blugold award
during this year's ball in honor of his longtime support of
the event. A lover of all things German and Austrian, Bruce
attends the Ball every year dressed in full regalia and as
the spitting image of Kaiser Wilhelm. Bruce also has been a
long-time friend of The Singing Statesmen, hosting them
for concerts and other events in St. Paul. Several years ago
he established the Noble Statesmen Scholarship Fund,
which provides scholarships to members of The Singing
Statesmen. He makes a point at each Viennese Ball to spend
time with The Singing Statesmen and to present the
scholarships.  In addition, Bruce has supported other funding
and scholarships through the German American Heritage
Foundation that he established.
During both evenings, we met young alumni who came back to campus for the first time to attend the ball, as well as alumni who have returned to campus every April for decades to enjoy the Viennese Ball. With so many Blugolds together in one place, it felt a lot like a spring Homecoming — though this weekend our Blugold friends were much better dressed than those I met at last fall's Homecoming football game!

It also was nice to find so many people on our campus who have no real ties to our university other than their love of the Viennese Ball. It truly is an event that brings people from near and far.

Congratulations to the young couple who got engaged Saturday night! I'm guessing they will make attending the Viennese Ball a spring tradition after that beautiful proposal.

My thanks to the many, many incredibly talented students and faculty who brought the music to life Friday and Saturday. They had guests waltzing in the grand ballroom, swing dancing to big band music and singing along at the piano bar. They even got me to polka — I was glad I remember how!

The Viennese Ball is yet one more reminder of why UW-Eau Claire is known worldwide for its incredible music program. Our students and faculty truly are amazing musicians who sure know how to put on a show.

Kudos to the late Ada Bors, who had the vision 40 years ago to create this wonderful tradition on our campus, as well as those whose hard work and creativity continue to make the event so special after four decades. I am certain I speak for the thousands of people who enjoy the ball each year when I  say your efforts are greatly appreciated.

And just think, only 363 more days until we get to do it all over again.