Firefighters’ Ball Returns After Three-Year Covid Hiatus

Attendees are in high spirits at a previous Ketchum Sun Valley Volunteer Association Firefighters’ Ball. Photo credit: Brian Tierney

By Hayden Seder

After a three-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the Ketchum Sun Valley Volunteer Association (KSVVA) Firefighters’ Ball returns for in-person dancing, prizes, and good times. The organization, comprised of fire volunteers who serve Ketchum and Sun Valley, puts on this annual event not as a fundraiser but as a way of saying thank you to the community for its donations and support.

“People are really excited,” says Lara McLean, a lieutenant/paramedic with the Ketchum Fire Department for 20 years, of the event’s return. “It’s funny to watch people just get giddy about something that we used to take for granted. I’m glad we don’t take it for granted anymore.

This year’s ball will be held at the Limelight Hotel in Ketchum on Nov. 19. Bust out your legwarmers and crimpers, because this year’s theme is “All Things ’80s!” Doors open at 7 p.m. and music by Diamond Empire Band, a three- to 14-piece band specializing in high-energy music, starts at 8 p.m. and is sure to get you on the dance floor. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online, at Atkinsons’ Market in Ketchum, or at the door. Typically, tickets to the ball sell out, so be sure to get yours early.

In the past, a feature of the Firefighters’ Ball has been a silent auction, with prizes like ski passes, local hotel stays, and restaurant gift cards. This year, in lieu of an auction, there will be a contest for winning prizes. McLean couldn’t say specifically what the contest will be, since it involves coming up with an answer that could be researched beforehand, but she hinted that it has to do with fire gear.

While the Firefighters’ Ball is a festive party, McLean is quick to remind us that the reason for it is fairly serious—thanking the community for all of its support. Donations acquired throughout the year are typically made in response to letters sent out by KSVVA to homeowners and the Firefighters’ Ball is a thank-you for those donations. Without them, the KSVVA wouldn’t be able to afford essential equipment and to fund training opportunities for firefighters.

“With those donations, we get equipment that goes on fire engines that helps us fight fires, equipment for backcountry rescue, for wildland firefighting—all those things the cities’ budgets can’t cover but make us doing our jobs easier,” says McLean. In terms of training, donations allow the KSVVA to bring teachers in from the outside or to send people to conferences who can then bring that knowledge back to train other firefighters in the community.

Supporting our firefighters has likely been on the minds of Wood River Valley residents after a late fire season in September brought flames close to historic icons like Smiley Creek Lodge and Galena Lodge. The fire that burned down the Limelight Condos in Warm Springs was also a sober reminder of how important it is to support our local emergency personnel.

Funds raised in past years have gone to some specific projects like upgrading KSVVA’s backcountry rescue equipment, buying a CPR simulation mannequin, and training staff to become AIRE avalanche instructors. More general areas that donations go to are equipping firefighters with protective clothing and tools, purchasing new equipment, and supporting the Victim Relief Fund, a program that helps fire victims with immediate food, clothing, and housing needs.

“I think it’s important to look back and say what we’re actually saying thank you for, and what we’re saying thank you for is bringing in the equipment we need to help the community better,” says McLean. “When people give, we do better.”

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