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Ball earns mixed review

Many prefer the Downtown setting
By: Julie Eng Journal Correspondent
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Though the Auburn Chamber of Commerce is counting this year’s Black & White Ball as a success, some attendees say it was not the party they remember from years past. Saturday night’s ball was moved from its traditional Downtown location to the Gold Country Fairgrounds, which left many Auburn residents feeling like they’d paid $70 to go to the fair. Nell Curran, co-owner and manager of Bootleggers Old Town Tavern & Grill, said that though they enjoyed serving food at the Ball, she has heard some complaints. “People felt it wasn’t as upscale as last year, they felt it had more of a fair feeling,” she said on Thursday. Curran said that though they always support the chamber and will continue to sponsor the event in the future, she thinks the chamber could have done things differently to make the ball a success at the fairgrounds. “They needed to jump it up a notch. They didn’t spend as much money on decorations, which I think made people who’d attended last year feel like it was less upscale,” Curran said. Auburn resident Robert Tryon agreed. “The decorations were very sparse and minimalist, I found them very disappointing,” he wrote in a letter to the chamber, which was also sent to the Journal. Tryon went on to say that he and his wife felt that “from 7:40 p.m. on, there was nothing to do. We did sit down and talk with other people who mostly did not like this venue.” One aspect of the move to the fairgrounds that many were unhappy with was the cramped quarters, especially around the food court. “The biggest disappointment was the one food tent,” Tryon said. “It is a traffic nightmare. You feel like you are at a feeding trough, and it was difficult to carry anything without getting bumped. You have to go in and out to really try the different foods and then you don’t always acquaint them with the business locations. We gave up and just listened to music.” Reese Browning, owner of Old Town Pizza and Old Town Dessert Café, both food providers at the event, agreed that it was cramped, but did not think that seriously detracted from the event. “We had a great time,” he said. “There was a ton of people, but I’m sure adjustments will be made by the chamber to make the food court bigger (next year).” Browning said he will continue to sponsor the ball. However, some other local business owners say they aren’t coming back. Vince Russell, owner of Computer Addiction in Auburn, did not think the ball was a success, and won’t be sponsoring next year. Russell said he thought the event was “pretty horrible.” “Past balls had at least one good band that had 700 people dancing to it,” he said. “ This year there was just one OK band. So people were milling around drunk with nothing to do.” Despite complaints from Russell and others, chamber officials say the ball was a hit. “Most everybody that I talked to really liked the fairgrounds,” said chamber President Anne Rivero. “I heard one or two comments that it wasn’t the same as Downtown, but for the most part I think people really liked it. It was a lot like the ball used to be when it first started, with a lot more community people there.” When asked if the ball would be returning to the fairgrounds next year, Rivero said it was still too early to tell. However, she is sure it won’t be held Downtown. “We won’t ever go back downtown,” she said. “Why go where you’re not wanted? The people who come from out of town want us to have it Downtown, but they don’t understand that it’s a logistical nightmare.”