By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent
Members of the Johnstown Concert Ballet are hoping to resurrect, in their own unique way, an event that once was an annual holiday tradition for many individuals and families in Johnstown.
Back in the day, an event known as the Mercy Lee Hospital Charity Ball used to take place at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena in downtown Johnstown the day after Christmas. The event was “put together by an energized team of volunteers representing two of the major healthcare facilities in town,” said Rosemary Pawlowski, a consultant for the Johnstown Concert Ballet.
“The profits were split but the good times were universal,” Pawlowski said.
Johnstown resident Andy Fedore said he remembers the ball as a smashing success, and one of “the most exciting nights of the year in Johnstown.” Back then, Fedore was working for one of Lee Hospital’s corporate divisions and, as such, began regularly attending the event.
“Everybody went, really,” Fedore said. “It was a giant crowd, fluctuating anywhere between 2,000 to 6,000 from year to year. It was always wonderful.
“Families came with children and grandchildren. You could rent a table, set it up, and all night people would go from table to table visiting old friends and enjoying the company of their relatives.”
Fedore also mentioned that a rock band and a big-band-sounding group provided live entertainment, so people had the opportunity to dance the night away.
To his knowledge, the ball came to an end around 1992.
“Many people were sad to see it end,” Fedore said. “So many people looked forward to getting dressed up and getting together like that every year.”
That’s where the Johnstown Concert Ballet comes in.
This year, Fedore and Pawlowski, along with other volunteers, are working together to “promote a comeback” of the popular holiday tradition formerly known as the Mercy Lee Hospital Charity Ball.
True to form, on the day after Christmas, Johnstown Concert Ballet will host a “Holiday Homecoming” inside the Art Works building at 413 Third Ave. in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood. The event is scheduled to take place from 8 to 11 p.m. Dec. 26.
Tickets for “Holiday Homecoming” must be purchased in advance, as reservations are required. Tickets are available online at www.johnstownconcertballet.org.
As was customary practice for the Mercy Lee Hospital Charity Ball, guests will be invited to decorate their own tables from 1 to 3 p.m. that afternoon, and guests should also plan on bringing their own foods and beverages to enjoy and/or share.
“Johnstown Concert Ballet is not attempting to match the size of the charity ball, but hopes to create a venue where friends can gather to dance and enjoy the company of friends and others,” Pawlowski said. “This is another special event to promote the mission of Dance Works.”
The Johnstown Concert Ballet is currently pulling together its resources to create the JCB Dance Works in the former Hornick Sporting Goods store in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood. The Dance Works vision includes a Center for Dance and Movement, which will serve as not only the home of the Johnstown Concert Ballet, but also a place where many genres of dance and workshops dedicated to building healthier bodies for peoples of every age and condition will take place throughout the year.
Fedore said that he’s looking forward to this event, and hopes that people who used to attend the Mercy Lee Hospital Charity Ball will consider attending “Holiday Homecoming.”
“It will still be a bring-your-own-everything type of event,” Fedore said, “and music will be provided by Brian Wolfe (of 96.5 KEY), who will play multi-era dance music all night.
“People can bring in trays of food and cookies, dance and just enjoy each others’ company. I’m sure it will be a night to remember.”