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Auburn chamber plans scaled-back Black & White Ball spinoff

Black & White Affaire slated for Sept. 15 in Downtown Auburn
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Limiting numbers to 2,000 and requiring ties on all men, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce is planning a scaled-down, more sedate spinoff of the Black & White Ball. A yearly late-summer fixture in Auburn from 1992 to 2009, the ball attracted as many as 5,300 people. But its last years were marred by dwindling revenues, a drop-off in attendance and acrimony from some Downtown Auburn businesses when it was held there. Chamber President Richard Hall and the business organization’s “One Big Thing 2012” committee unveiled a plan Wednesday they’ve developed for an event dubbed Auburn’s Black & White Affaire that would return the “black and white” party theme to Downtown Auburn and a mid-September date. Hall said discussions with city officials have provided organizers with a plan intended to give participants a “fun but uneventful” night. That includes distributing tickets and vouchers for tickets with sponsors. It’s a new policy chamber CEO Bruce Cosgrove told about 25 business and city leaders Wednesday would help make the Black & White Affaire a more “intimate” and locally attended event. Sponsors would be given vouchers to invite people they choose to buy tickets for the event, which are priced at $75 apiece. It would be up to the people with vouchers to buy their tickets through the Chamber of Commerce up to Aug. 17. Cosgrove said that sponsors in past years have distributed more than 2,000 tickets and the committee believes that all vouchers will result in tickets sales before the general public is given an opportunity after Aug. 17. “They’re like the golden ticket to the Willy Wonka chocolate factory,” Cosgrove said with a smile. Hall said side issues in the past that took away from the luster of the Black & White Ball shouldn’t re-occur. “We want to have the vouchers given to people you would have over to your house for dinner,” Hall told the group. While Auburn City Councilman Bill Kirby expressed his own opposition to the idea of mandatory ties, he said the city is 100 percent behind the chamber’s effort. “We think a downscaled event will address a lot of issues,” Kirby said. While not in attendance, Downtown Auburn business owner Margareta Swann said that she and many other nearby businesspeople and residents are against what they see as a revival of an event with negatives that far outweighed any positives. Noise, people relieving themselves on streets and sidewalks and even public sex were cited by Swann as reasons to hold any black-and-white themed event away from Downtown. The final ball was held at the fairgrounds because of protests over its continuance Downtown and Swann said that it would again provide more control over the crowd. “They’re not considering people who live around here,” Swann said. Cosgrove said the new event is meeting a constant demand from people to bring back the ball – but scaling the occasion back to address concerns. Wine and beer from local vintners and brewers will be featured, along with one hard-liquor “signature drink,” Cosgrove said. There will be no extensive hard-liquor pouring, he said. Hall said that he would like to see the tips earned at the bar for the event go to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The Black & White Affaire will have three music venues, including two specifically for dancing. A VIP reception would start at 7:30 p.m., with the event officially opening to the public at 8:30 p.m. Final alcohol sales would be at midnight and the event would be over by 12:30 a.m. The scaled-back event would take up about half the “footprint” of the final Downtown Black & White Ball in 2008, organizers say. It would take in the Clock Tower and extend along Lincoln Way to the State Theater. Cosgrove outlined a financial plan that estimates a profit of about $30,000 on gross revenue of approximately $150,000. In past years, organizers have spent up to $250,000 to put the Black & White Ball on, he said. Tickets will be $75, an increase of $10 from the Black & White Ball, Cosgrove said.