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From our Original Ballfest Newsletter 

Dateline: Sunday, July 26, 1998  

by Jackie Evans

WChapter One "Ballfesting Early History"W

Early July 1997...Southern California. 

Without knowing the far-reaching effects of the impromptu little get-together at her home, Linda, a long-time Michael Ball fan, hosted a pool party and barbecue, which included some other Michael fans that she had met online.  One young woman was invited when she discovered (via the original Michael Ball mailing list roster) that they lived quite close to each other.  The hostess, having made the trek to England to see Michael a few times, and a collector of all things Michael...had lots to show and share.  She is a most lovely and gracious it is a certainty that everyone had a great time...and the first MBallFest had been born, although at the time, it wasn't called that...nor did anyone dream that this was only the beginning.

July-Sept 1997...Seattle: 

Unbelievably, considering the size of my town (lovingly referred to as Smalltown USA), I discovered the name Crys on Tricia's Michael Ball (Amulation list) Roster...and found we were actually almost neighbors...1/2 mile apart IS pretty darn close!   You can't imagine what a total surprise that really was.  We wanted to meet, but, of course, we were a little skeptical about meeting  strangers.  We decided to meet at the brightly lit local laundromat, where we chatted for a bit.  Crys later loaned me a beautiful tour book from Michaels recent tour which I hated to give back!  We made plans to meet with other local list members for lunch and for signing Bear Marius, if he got to me in time. 

At that time the famous "Three Bears Project" was underway, and "Marius, the Bear" was in southern California and on his way to me, so the idea for  the "First Great Pacific Northwest MBallFest and Historic Bear Signing Event" was born.  Crys and I decided to co-host this little happening at a centrally located Seattle restaurant...where everyone could feel safe about meeting a group of total strangers ~ well almost total strangers ~ Crys had already met two other Seattle Michael fans.  October 5th was the day chosen, and seven of us met, had lunch, signed the Marius Bear...and had one heck-of-a good time looking at all our various Michael Ball pictures, programs, playbills, etc.  A tradition of sending postcards depicting Seattle landmarks to future BallFest host/hostesses or guests was begun.

Meanwhile...back in California:

July-Sept 1997...Los Angeles:  

M and l and I were making plans to visit our oldest son in L.A.  An MB list member suggested, well urged...okay INSISTED...that the L.A. hostess  and I contact each other and any other MB fans in the L.A. area, [using the MB Roster as a guide] and try to arrange to meet each other somehow.  I remember how stupid I felt writing to people I didn't know at all (hard to believe now, huh?)  However, between us, we managed to contact 5 other Los Angeles MB fans,  and a get together was arranged, to be held at her home and to introduce me and my family to some MB fans in the Los Angeles area.  Along the way, "Linda's Holiday MBallFest, BBQ and Pool Party" became the official name of this forthcoming event.

Note: Some names withheld to protect the innocent :-)

November 30, 1997:  

"Linda's Holiday MBallFest, BBQ and Pool Party" was held at her home...the pool party and barbeque idea was scrapped in favor of a buffet luncheon (Note: the weather in Los Angeles in November can be a bit...well changeable!)  A huge bunch of us attended, including neighbors, families and friends.  During the course of planning and preparing, two of the group, who had never known or dreamed of the existence of one another...discovered they are practically twins in more ways than can be imagined!  It was one terrific occasion, several lifetime friendships were formed...and the future of BallFesting was insured.

At various times, the dreams, hopes, fantasies and wishes for a huge National/International Ballfest was mentioned by one or another of us...but I don't really think that any of us seriously considered it might one day actually become a reality. 

Over the next many months...

Our Seattle group began getting together once a month, usually for a pot luck luncheon at the home of one or another of us, and, on some very special occasions, at a private dining room in a Seattle restaurant.  We hosted guests from Japan; Brazil; and even two from Pasadena, Ca.  On August 1st we welcomed my dear friend Linda Bates to a pot-luck Luncheon/MBAllFest party at my home.  (Linda stayed with us for nearly a week, an unforgettable experience for us and for Linda, I am happy to say!)  We also celebrated the birthday of  one Seattle member  and our Wedding Anniversary.

We have come a long way with the MBallFest idea and I have been really pleased to note that the idea is spreading...and others are picking up the tradition that began back in 1997.

Somewhere along the line, while planning that first southern California get together, we shortened the name to "BALLFEST", as we realized that the original name "L's Holiday MBallFest, BBQ and Pool Party" was just a trifle too long, too hard to pronounce, and rather too long for an acronym too! :-)

The word "Ballfest" can't be copyrighted, it does not belong exclusively to me or to anyone or any group.   It just developed naturally from that first very long and half-joking name for our first get together in Los Angeles.  However, I have been using it since then, and since it so nicely describes "having a festival to celebrate Michel Ball" and works well in phrases such as "Have a Ball(fest)" I guess I will always use the name "Ballfest", and "Ballfesting" to describe what we do at Ballfests. :-) 

  A ball  
  is a circle. No  
  beginning, no end.  
  It keeps us together like
  our Circle of Friends, But the   
  treasure inside for you to see   
  is the treasure of friendship   
  You have granted to me.  
  Today I pass the  
  Friendship ball  
  to you



WChapter Two "Ballfesting - The Next Step"

Meanwhile (again): 

Shortly after the extremely successful beginnings of both groups...M and I began planning an extended vacation/trip to New York City, where we planned to see as many shows as we could afford and see in a week, with a side trip to Virginia to visit relatives, and another to Orlando to visit Disney World.  Since I NEVER fly...and I do love train travel...we chose a route that would take me around almost the entire perimeter of the country...and M would join me along the way for the Chicago-Virginia portions and one or two of our boys would do the Disney World portion with me.  It became known as our NYC Show-A-Thon Trip.

"T" (name withheld to protect the umm, innocent) mentioned one day in a post to the MB list, that she would be attending "Phantom of the Opera"  in Chicago in the idea of meeting each other seemed like something do-able.  Why not a Chicago BallFest?...(Eventually T declined, but the traveling BallFest idea was born.)   I posted my plans and routes, wrote letters to listers I was then in touch with...and suddenly "The BallFest /NYC Show-A-Thon and Jekyll & Hyde First Anniversary/Disney World Trip" became the next big event for me.  Stops were planned for Minneapolis, Minnesota where I would meet another MB fan, Chicago, a transfer point for trains, was a place to meet another 3 MB fans/list members, and also see "Phantom of the Opera" as a group.  "C" planned to join us for that portion of our trip, and would bring along her daughter, and perhaps her hubby.  New York City made meeting with another 7 or 8 and possibly several others a definite possibility.  I planned to meet and visit another in Atlanta, GA ...and  yet another two fans lived close enough to Orlando, Florida for a possible BallFest in that area.  The trip was a  huge undertaking, involving lots of planning and letters and scheduling ...and as might be expected - everything we planned was not possible to do, or didn't go as planned, or folks were not able to attend.  I got a really bad cold while in NYC which kept me from enjoying one or two planned events. but overall...the trip was one huge success...and the BallFest idea was spreading...

Meanwhile...yet again: 

Amidst all the Show-A-Thon planning...a new idea presented itself.  In November, I had the great good fortune to meet David Burnham in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada...something else I have to thank "A" for...since it was "A" who first told me about David...but that is yet another story.  

After "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" closed in Vancouver, B.C., David returned home to the L.A. area...and planned to participate in  the annual S.T.A.G.E. (Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event) benefit concert at Cal State L.A. in late January-early February.  This is a  show that raises money for AIDS related projects in the L.A. area...something that both David and myself share a strong interest in and close attachment to.  Some of us decided it was time for a "BallFest Supports AIDS Research and Related Projects" event.  I was able to combine that with a visit with our son Jeff and three of our Los Angeles members joined us for dinner and the show.  We managed to completely surprise David, who had no clue we were coming, and make a large and great impression on the producers of the show as well.  We decided to make this an annual event...and plans were made for the 15th annual concert to be held in March 1998.  

WChapter 3.  "A New Direction"

Once I managed to survive both trips and return home and get my thoughts together again...I read an amusing, entertaining and very interesting post to the MB list, written by an MB list member telling about a BallFest with her pal in another state.  Two of my friends had also attended...and of course, (still feeling stupid writing to folks who don't even know I exist) I somehow found myself writing to both the post writer and her pal.  In comparing BallFest memories and agendas one day, one sorta off-handedly mentioned it would be nice if there could be a BallFest somewhere where east coast could meet west coast.  And kiddies...that little remark REALLY LIT MY FIRE! 

Why not, I asked myself a zillion times in the next few days?  Why not in Indiana, where my pal Beth Ann lives?  She had been unable to attend our Chicago BallFest...and knew of no other MB fans in her area...Indiana is pretty centrally located...and hey...hadn't the idea been tossed about here and there, hither and yon for a year or so?  Why not? My wonderful, understanding hubby asked.  Why not indeed!  We had already planned to return to NYC in the summer of 1999! 

So...I asked Beth Ann if she might like to co-hostess such an was decided that we would discuss it with mutual friends off-list first, and if a workable planning committee could be organized...a post to the MB list would be made, and the responses would tell us if this was the time for this new idea to become reality.  The rest as they say "is history"

Our original and fantastic little planning committee of seven included a pretty darn good representation of the country, guys and gals, young and old, students, housewives, moms and one grandma (me) ~ musical theatre lovers all.

The post brought almost instant responses...from NY, Massachusetts, Australia, Indiana,  Utah, Brazil, Wisconsin, Texas and other locations and brought  to 15 the number of interested parties who initially contacted me.  Later, I heard from  Linda in England, and Solas in Canada...and our little list grew almost daily.  Sar, was busily running all over Europe whilst all this was going on!  I do know  it was a huge topic of conversation at my August 1st "BallFest Picnic, Barbeque, Hot Tub, Birthday, Anniversary" get-together...and I definitely felt the time had INDEED come...the first Annual U. S. National BallFest was on it's way. 

One Ballfest committee member agreed to handle the entertainment/recreation planning, and help with west coast group planning.  Another sent us some great info about the proposed BallFest area.  Two others would join Beth Ann in handling arrangements, etc, for the mid-America group, and serve as newsletter co-editors.  Yet another two would be our east coast representatives, allowing for school schedules and wedding plans.

Suggestions and ideas for BallFest-USA originally included a huge family picnic, with possibly softball, horseshoes and the like, maybe even those old fashioned sack races, 3 legged races, balloon tosses, or whatever.  A talent show, a   banquet, a giant get-together to view Michael videos, hear MB CDs, exchange MB memorabilia such as pics, programs, playbills, videos, audio tapes and what have you, and plenty of time for meeting everyone and exchanging Michael stories...or finding new friends would be part of every day.  A video would be  made of attendees and others who wish to send Michael a recorded message, and certainly, the entire event would be videotaped by many attendees.  With a  new theme park and water park scheduled for the area ...there were lots of possibilities...but much would probably depend on whether or not that was completed.  

And once more, the rest, as they say, is history!    W

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