Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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February 20, 2014

Oil Baron’s Ball has new home

Corsicana — Last year’s inaugural Oil Baron’s Ball was success in every way that counted. The fundraiser garnered just under $30,000, which was split between Derrick Days and VOICE.

So, that puts more pressure to make this year’s ball just as good or better. The first year was about curiosity. This year is about proof.

Proof that it wasn’t a fluke.

Proof that it can attract a crowd.

Proof that it’s a good time worth the $150 a ticket.

“I think it was such a success last year that people will be eager to come again,” said organizer Mary Steely. “And they’ll want to see the new venue.”

Last year’s ball was at the Offices at Pocket Park, Jimmy Hale’s renovated Art Spot space on Beaton Street. The offices weren’t completed, but there was so much curiosity about the building that people overlooked the unfinished surfaces.

“All I need are floors, paint and bathrooms,” Steely said, counting down on her fingers.

This year, the committee is holding the ball in yet another work in progress — the former Smith’s General Store at 215 E. Fifth Avenue in downtown Corsicana.The event is taking place at 7 p.m. on April 25.

More than 100 years old, the building is entering a new phase of its life as an entertainment spot. The new owner is renovating it into a permanent place for the Corsicana Opry.

“When people come in they’re going to know it’s a work in progress,” Steely said.

Despite the new venue, some things will still be the same as last year’s ball.

Dallas caterer 3015 at Trinity Grove will be doing the cooking again, with heavy hors d’oeuvres such as tenderloin, paté, shrimp and mini pastries. Steely found the Dallas caterer through her work organizing social functions for Barbara Hunt.

Pharis Corder will bring his big band sound to the party, but expanded with more horns and three vocalists.

Then there are the little things that make the Oil Baron’s Ball special — the cognac bar, the bar and nice wine selections, valet parking and red carpet.

Inside, the building is massive, easily more than 20,000 square feet, much of which is open space with ceilings 50 or 60 feet high, topped with antique skylights. Taking up the center of the enormous floor is a stage for bands and entertainers, but the rest is wood floor, smoothed by a century’s worth of feet and perfect for dancing.

Despite the enormous space, Steely is still limiting the number of ball tickets in an effort to keep it special. Her target number is about 165 people, which is slightly more than last year, but not much.

“I think it will be a good one, and if we make some money that’s all that matters. VOICE is a good cause and so is Derrick Days,” Steely said. “We need to keep it going.”


Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail:


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