Big Town Event With Small Town Flair


Tom and Brenda Basso rented costumes from a shop in Phoenix. Brenda wore a hoop skirt and a bonnet jauntily cocked to one side. Tom matched her with a bowler hat and suit. The couple tore up the dance floor winning the award for Best Dancers.

Tom and Brenda Basso rented costumes from a shop in Phoenix. Brenda wore a hoop skirt and a bonnet jauntily cocked to one side. Tom matched her with a bowler hat and suit. The couple tore up the dance floor winning the award for Best Dancers. Photo by Alexis Bechman. |

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The Mogollon Health Alliance’s (MHA) Black and White Ball has enough class to hold its own in any city, but the small-town touches made it truly Payson.

This year the event netted $45,000 to benefit the numerous charitable works the MHA does to promote rural health care.

On Saturday, more than 100 people gathered in a transformed bingo room of the Mazatzal Casino. Decorations transported guests to the bygone elegant and romantic era of early century San Francisco.

Stars interspersed with tiny lights hung from the ceiling to create a night sky. On the tables, larger than life martini glasses dripped dripped with pearls and long, white gloves. Pictures of 1906 San Francisco, flappers and Gibson girls hung on the walls. On the stage, the 20-piece Sonoran Swing big band played lively dance music.

Kenny Evans, Payson mayor and president of the MHA, in a kickback to the appeal of rural charm wore tails and black cowboy boots, acknowledged to guests, “You help make Payson the truly wonderful place it is.”

In an act with small town charm, Dr. Alan Michels and his wife Margaret bought seats for a whole table and invited their neighbors, including Tim and Samantha Wright, and Janet and Scott Nossek. Their table had the feel of a block party, but instead of barbecuing and mingling on their street, everyone sat dressed in their finery, bid on silent auction items, and danced at the casino.

Wright, the town of Payson’s attorney, loved that the neighbors he usually just waves to could spend an evening enjoying each other’s company.

Nossek, who works in physical therapy, at first rejected the idea of wearing a tuxedo, felt relieved when a suit worked just fine. Neither the Wrights nor the Nosseks had ever attended the MHA Black and White Ball before. “Now that I’ve seen the event, I want to come back next year,” said Samantha.

Janet agreed.

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Couples danced the night away to the big band tunes of Sonoran Swing at the annual Black & White Ball.

From sponsoring scholarships, to fire department grants for EMT and paramedic training, to the Women’s Wellness Forum and an annual health fair, the MHA improves the lives of Rim Country residents.

Because of MHA’s commitment to excellence in health care, the board started the conversation to bring a university to Payson, said Evans.

The MHA is a registered non-profit that owns the land and buildings of the hospital. More than 100 people volunteer with the MHA from working in the hospital, to serving on the board of directors.

Gary Cordell is the vice president of MHA and a member of the Sonoran Swing Band. Other MHA board members include Michels a pediatric internist, John Naughton publisher of the Payson Roundup, Richard Johnson, Pat Clearman, Paul Bates and Don King.

Instead of schmoozing donors, Cordell sang for two and a half hours while attendees arrived and ate dinner. He then played with the band for the rest of the evening.

Organizers decided on a theme of early century San Francisco, said Sanja Long, acting CEO of the MHA. Attendees ran with the motif, some wearing costumes from the 1860s with hoop skirts to cowboy dandies with flashy vests, to flappers with fringe, sparkles and feathers.

Guests had an opportunity to have their photo taken in front of a wall-sized picture of a trolley car or the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mark and Vicki Kotschedoff won the award for best-dressed choosing the Roaring ’20s as the era for their costumes.

The MHA honored the Signeski Family Foundation as their platinum sponsor, Chad and Melissa Overman of Overman Designs as the silver sponsor and Steve Taddie of Stellar Capital Management as the bronze.

Topping off an evening full of local touches, Pat Graser, a 30-year volunteer with the hospital, won the drawing for a diamond ring.

“I’ve lived in Payson for 33 years,” said Graser as she showed off her new ring. Winning the ring was a perfect touch to all of the years she has lived in this unique town.

She feels lucky to be here.

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