Arts Center of the Ozarks’ Beach Ball eases the winter blues

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 148 views 

SPRINGDALE — The Arts Center of the Ozarks’ Beach Ball, a casual affair born from a much more formal soiree established 45 years ago, now gives patrons and supporters a chance to dress down, rather than “up.”

The fourth annual Beach Ball, held Saturday (Feb. 26) at the Springdale Holiday Inn had a smaller crowd than in years past, but still, all the major contributors were in attendance and partying like they’re known to do. The 2012 ball took a Hawaiian theme, for which there was no shortage of props. After four years of Beach Ball fundraisers, organizers have acquired enough tropical-themed decor to establish their own island.

One unusual — and fun — aspect of the ACO ball is that a core group of longtime friends and supporters keep the fun going all year long by offering private parties as live auction items.

ACO founders Kathi and Harry Blundell, Carlena and Bob Lambert and Mary Beth and David Matthews offered a murder mystery party for bid; Lisa and Jim Blount and Kelly and Michael Weir donated a ‘70s game show party; and the Blount family put forth a Polynesian-themed pool party. The value of these type items, according to the hosts, is deemed “priceless,” as you can’t put a dollar sign on the fun that comes out of these get-togethers.

Other live auction items included a round-trip train ride for 68 people on the Arkansas-Missouri Railroad to Van Buren or Winslow, valued at $3,700; a weeklong stay at Debby and Chris Weiser’s Santa Fe condo, a $2,500 deal; and a week’s vacation at Margo and Monty Henderson’s top-floor condo on Marco Island, Fla., another $2,500 value.

It’s a little-known fact that ACO is the oldest arts center in the region and the one from which others were formed. The Blundells — Kathi is the administrative director and Harry is the theater director — answered an ad for jobs at the center decades ago and they’ve been there ever since. The center has undertaken all the classics — Music Man, Sound of Music, Oklahoma! Fiddler on the Roof —  utilizing all-local talent.

Shows left in ACO’s 2011-12 season include a performance based on the popular children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (March 3-4) and Book of Days, something for more mature audiences (April 20-22 and April 26-28). 
The arts center operates on an annual budget of $500,000 to $600,000, Harry Blundell said. Officials rely on the annual fundraiser to pitch in roughly 10 percent toward ACO’s operating budget.