Call to bring back the mayoral ball

Former Warrnambool mayor believes an annual formal social night for councillors would be beneficial.

Former Warrnambool mayor believes an annual formal social night for councillors would be beneficial.

TRIPPING the light fantastic back to an old tradition would help reconnect residents with the city council, according to former Warrnambool mayor Frank McCarthy.

The colourful former city leader has challenged incumbent mayor Michael Neoh to resurrect the annual mayoral ball, which was staged until two decades ago.

A fan of the fox-trot and evening three-step, Mr McCarthy said the ball was an opportunity for councillors to meet ratepayers in a social context.

“We had some wonderful evenings. It was one of the highlights in Warrnambool’s social calendar,” Mr McCarthy said.

“There’s a lot of ill-will towards the council at the moment and some of that has to do with ratepayers being unable to see the councillors as people like you and I.

“The ball wasn’t just about dressing up and skating around the dance floor. 

“It was about humanising council, bringing back a community feel.” Mayoral balls were staged from the late 1920s until 1993 and usually held at the Palais Theatre and then the Warrnambool Town Hall. 

When the hall was being redeveloped as an arts centre in the early 1980s, the annual function was transferred to the Civic Hall.

The event had a strict dress code with men expected to wear dinner suits and women required to wear cocktail dresses or elegant evening attire.

It is understood the mayoral ball was discontinued when the council was run by state commissioners between 1994-96 and was not resumed by the reinstalled council.

Mr McCarthy said he and other city leaders donated $500 out of their mayoral allowance to fund the charity event in the early 1990s and challenged Cr Neoh to do the same.

“I think Michael Neoh should get out his wallet but so should the other councillors,” he said.

“The problem with today’s councils is that they’ve turned into corporations. 

“Sometimes you need functions like this to bring people together.”

While Warrnambool’s council dance is a historic footnote, Bendigo’s mayoral ball was held in May and equivalent celebrations are held in Shepparton, Geelong and by lord mayor Robert Doyle in Melbourne.

Warrnambool City Council may not have directly organised a ball for more than two decades, it does assist with an independently-run black tie event. 

The Waves Ball has been staged at the Civic Green since 2012 with all funds being directed towards cancer centre campaign Peter’s Project. 

The council helps to facilitate the event and the Fun 4 Kids marquee is used as the venue through council support. It will be held on July 12. 

A Warrnambool Cup ball was also held in the 1990s on the Wednesday evening of the May Racing Carnival but has not be organised in recent years.

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