By Himmler Joachim
Driving into Anthony’s Pier 9 on the last night of January, I am greeted by a valet who takes my keys and parks my car. I have finally arrived to enjoy the Orange County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Snow Ball. This year, the theme is “FROZEN.”
I walk in the front door where I am welcomed by a snow machine, beautiful blue lights and winter decorations. Tall, white tree branches and softly flowing curtains decorate the walkway.
Men are in tuxedos or their best suits and women wear beautiful dresses of all colors, smiling, drinking, eating and networking.
If the entrance portrays the image of a mystical aurora, then the Garden Room is a serene northern tundra, with a large white gazebo and fluffy tablecloths. Also in the room are black jack and roulette tables for patrons to play with chips they received when they arrived. A shimmering two and a half foot tall ice sculpture is the centerpiece of the area. It is a snowflake sitting atop a podium also made of ice, with the words “Frozen 2015” engraved on it.
Near this podium are silent auction tables, giving patrons the chance to bid for items like a coffee maker, a flat screen TV, a 1930s mink hat and a 6-day,-6-night African Safari for two.
“It’s always a great event. As you can see, it’s well attended,” says Chamber member Jeff Siegel of Spencer Daniels Agency. His company has provided the gaming tables.
In the ballroom, large crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling, casting a bewitching blue glow over the entire dance floor. On the dining tables, more white, slender, tree-like decorations seem to grow from shimmering see-through vases.
Getting started with the night’s brief program, Eric Maldonado, a partner with Verizon Wireless, is the exuberant host for the evening,
He describes his impressions of the event in three simple words: “Wow, wow, wow!”
After a few speeches, Illusionist Chris Dare, a 22-year-old Newburgh native, performs as one of the evening’s main attractions. After his performance, where he cuts an attendee’s wedding ring out of a real lemon after smashing it with a hammer, he walks around the hall performing extraordinary card tricks for other guests.
I do some mingling myself, speaking with a wide variety of Chamber members with all sorts of jobs, including a radiation oncologist and a Mobile Life Support Services executive.
At 8:15, three hours after the party starts, the drinks at the long are still flowing, and members are still dancing.
“It’s a much more relaxed, fun event this year,” says Chamber Vice President Ellen Daley, who is working at her 25th Chamber gala.
A first for me is the bistro-style food and dessert area, a wonderland of tasty treats that every guest can’t resist sampling. Anthony’s Pier 9 staff are happy to provide hot pretzels, vanilla ice cream with warm bananas covered in spiked caramel sauce, movie theater-style popcorn and a fabulous chocolate fountain where eager guests are dunking bits of cake, fruit, marshmallows and more.
“You should be dancing!” one of the servers says to me, teasing me kindly. Marcia is dressed in all black attire, with golden brown skin and kind eyes. Apparently, she has seen me huddled in a corner writing the piece you are currently reading, while everyone else has been enjoying themselves.
Suddenly, the ballroom lights dim. The music stops.
“I’ve just been informed that the 50/50 raffle is up to $1,800,” says one of the members of The Motones, the band performing this evening. He is referring to the 50/50 raffle, where attendees have bought raffle tickets in a bid to win half of the cash jackpot.
Later the pot reaches $2,400.
Not long after the winning ticket is chosen. This year’s winner is Jim Distefano of Reliable Glass & Door Corp. in Newburgh. I ask him how he feels about winning the prize.
“Wonderful,” he smiles. “My wife is gonna buy new shoes.”