bowing out

Dazzling Dallas debutante ball canceled for first time in its 35-year history

Big Dallas debutante ball canceled for first time in 35-year history

Kate Jones, Audrey Berner, Grace Olson, Campbell Swango
Debs Kate Jones, Audrey Berner, Grace Olson, and Campbell Swango at the 2020 ball. Photo by Gittings
2021 DSOL debutantes
These 2021 debs will have to wait until 2022. Photo courtesy of Gittings
Allison Brodnax, Melissa Lewis, Mari Epperson
Mari Epperson (right, with Allison Brodnax and Melissa Lewis at the 2017 ball) is the chair of the 2021 Presentation Ball. Photo by WJNPHOTO
Gail Ewing does the Texas Dip with Perfection
Gail Ewing doing the "Texas dip" in 2016. Photo by Deborah Brown
DSOL President Kim Brannon with Tincy Miller and Joe Brannon
Tincy Miller (center, with Kim Brannon and Joe Brannon at the 2020 ball) was one of the event's founders. Photo by Gittings
Kate Jones, Audrey Berner, Grace Olson, Campbell Swango
2021 DSOL debutantes
Allison Brodnax, Melissa Lewis, Mari Epperson
Gail Ewing does the Texas Dip with Perfection
DSOL President Kim Brannon with Tincy Miller and Joe Brannon

Dallas debutantes will have an extra year to practice their "Texas dip," as the Dallas Symphony Orchestra League has canceled its 2021 Presentation Ball due to COVID-19 concerns.

It is the first time the ball has been canceled since its inception in 1987. Originally planned for February 13, organizers had pushed the date to June 12, then decided to call it off altogether.

“The decision was not made lightly," says Mari Epperson, Presentation Ball chair, in a release. "We hoped the pandemic would be under control and this memorable event could still be held with a few modifications. The DSO staff, DSO League leadership, and the Ball Advisory Committee gathered to assess the situation and we were disappointed to reach this difficult conclusion, feeling that for the health and safety of our Debutantes, the Honor Guard, guests, staff, musicians and numerous vendors, it was best to not proceed with the 2021 Presentation Ball."

All 2021 debutantes, she adds, may participate in the 2022 Presentation Ball, which will prove to be one mega-event.

The 2021 debutantes are: McKinley Lawson, Tory Wicklund, Claire Koonsman, Abigail Brannon, Kaitlin Murray, Rachel Pope, Nora Arnold, Virginia Fielder, Katherine Edwards, Eliza Davis, Story Langston, Annie Saustad, Sophie Hung, Abbey Perry, Ella Varel, Kelsey Wittmann, Madigan Jacoby, Annie Sawers, London Boscamp, Elizabeth Mocek, Audrey Hanna, Ashley Isenberg, Jessica Katzman, Brett Landin, Mary Tarver Reid, Isabella Scott, and Abby Stanford.

The Presentation Ball has established traditions for many DSO families in the past 35 years, with several second- and third-generation families attending each year. Upon their presentation on stage at the Meyerson Symphony Center, each deb shows off her best "Texas dip" bow in front of the appreciative crowd. After being escorted offstage by members of the Honor Guard, the young women celebrate with their families at an elegant dinner-dance in the Meyerson's lobby.

Last year's ball took place February 8, 2020, slipping in just before the pandemic began to force event cancellations for the rest of the year.

This year's ball organizers also had planned to honor the founder and first Ball chair, Mrs. Vance C. Miller, her co-chair, Mrs. P. Mike McCullough, and Mrs. Don Averitt who have all worked with the ball from the inception. 

“The vision and hard work of these ladies have made the Dallas Symphony Orchestra League Presentation Ball a time-honored tradition that has touched thousands of lives and raised over $12 million for the Dallas Symphony’s Education and Outreach programs," Epperson says. "Although the DSOL will not be able to honor these outstanding women on stage this year, we would like to recognize their leadership, vision and love for the arts community in Dallas — especially the Dallas Symphony Orchestra."

Founded in 1946, the DSOL's mission is to support the Dallas Symphony Orchestra through service, education, and fundraising activities. The Presentation Ball is the largest fundraiser for the DSOL. 

"We look forward to continuing to raise critical funds for essential programs for the DSO,” says DSOL president Anne Ligon.