Queen Susan Elizabeth Haynie to preside over Holly Ball

Queen Susan Elizabeth Haynie is preparing for the seasonal festivities celebrating the 121st Holly Ball.

The Northern Neck’s oldest traditional Yuletide event, the Holly Ball originated in 1895 and began operating as the fund-raising arm of the Tidewater Foundation in the 1950s.

Miss Haynie will serve as the official hostess of the event at 7 p.m. December 30, at Indian Creek Yacht and Country Club near Kilmarnock. The Haynie family has chosen Rep. Robert Wittman to serve as orator.

Events leading up to the Holly Ball are steeped in tradition and preserve the legacy of the foundation’s philanthropic mission, reported committee member Patricia Gallagher. Queen Susan and her parents recently hosted a Queen’s Ball for the debutantes, their parents and dates, and special guests at Festival Halle in Reedville.

The custom of crowning a Holly Ball queen originates from a flight of fancy at the first Holly Ball, said Gallagher. John Armistead Palmer, host of the holiday dance, was so impressed by the conviviality of the company and the spirit of the season that he pinned a sprig of holly in the hair of one of the attendees, proclaiming, ” I crown thee, Queen Cora, Empress of the Holly Realm!”

The dance was such a success that it became an annual event featuring the coronation of a queen, she said. In the early days, queens were gifted with ownership of a magnificent holly tree, once standing on Goodluck Road. While the tree stood, newly crowned queens often visited the tree after the ball with their escorts to carve their initials. This tree succumbed to a storm in the 1950s.

Miss Haynie is the 119th young lady to be honored as Holly Ball Queen. She is the daughter of John Willard Haynie Jr. of Reedville and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Chilton Kelley of Kilmarnock. She is a student at Rappahannock Community College.

The presentation of debutantes will begin at 8 p.m. with a grand processional and will be followed by an oratory and a figure, or dance pattern, of colonial origins performed by the debutantes and their escorts. At 9 p.m. guests will pay tribute to former debutantes and queens.

At 10 p.m., a new queen, chosen by all in attendance, will be crowned by Rep. Wittman. Dancing to music by the Kings of Swing will continue to midnight.

The Holly Ball Committee hopes that everyone enjoys the festivities, but reminds those who will be attending that the committee does not condone underage alcohol usage and state law regarding minimum age limits for the consumption of alcohol will be enforced, said Gallagher. Children younger than age 18 must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Tickets must be purchased in advance and will not be sold at the door.

As always, the Tidewater Foundation and Committee of the Holly Ball are grateful to the community for its tremendous support and enthusiastic attendance and to the many businesses who support the ball, making many gifts to the community possible, she said.

Requests for an invitation, in order to purchase tickets, or contributions of any amount should be sent to The Tidewater Foundation, Inc., P O Box 363, Irvington, VA 22480; or call 761-0401.

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