19-11-20 ARTS Firefighters' Ball.jpg

Partiers dance the night away at last year’s Firefighters’ Ball.

The Firefighters’ Ball is perhaps among the valley’s proudest recurring events. Each year, the community shows up in support of the Ketchum Sun Valley Volunteer Association. The ball is both an occasion for partying and an opportunity for the volunteers and the community to show each other mutual support and appreciation.

Keller Gibson, on-call volunteer firefighter and one of the chief organizers of this year’s shindig, asserted that to the volunteers themselves, this event is as much a “big thank-you party to the community” as it is a fundraiser.

Of course, fundraising is a crucial element of the ball. This party is the only event the group hosts to drum up finances for the entire year and the only event that directly benefits the Ketchum and Sun Valley fire departments.

The proceeds generated here all go directly to supporting the volunteers without getting tied up in local politics. That money funds crucial training and provides lifesaving gear and equipment. In short, it supports and aids ordinary community members who volunteer to do the extraordinary, who put their lives in harm’s way whenever they are called upon to do so.

Since the volunteer association consists of such a variety of normal, working Wood River citizens, the ball does come with an added bonus: It raises awareness for the firefighters themselves, whose identities are not exactly loudly projected.

Many of the volunteers attend the ball, which allows for a different kind of appreciation.

“You might not even realize that one of your neighbors is a volunteer firefighter,” Gibson said. “This way, you can put a face to it. We’re not just people who show up with sirens. We fix your houses, we serve you coffee. In a small community like this, it’s important to know your people. This is a cool opportunity to do that and it helps us connect with each other.”

Killarney Loufek, another on-call volunteer and organizer of the ball, commended the widespread community support, especially singling out accommodating employers who understand a volunteer’s commitments to respond to emergency whenever they need to.

“What I really like about this community, too, is to see people you interact with at your regular day job who are paid on-call. It’s cool to see how supportive employers are and how they respect your position as a firefighter,” she said.

To Loufek, who is fairly new to the position, and to Gibson, who has served her community as a volunteer for several years, this encouragement and backing are invaluable.

“Having that kind of support is amazing,” Gibson said. “That’s part of why we do this, why we host the ball. It’s a way for all of us to say thank you to this incredibly community.”

Doors will open for the 40th annual Firefighters’ Ball at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Limelight Hotel. Those in attendance can enjoy food and drinks provided by the Limelight as they bid in the silent auction and dance to live music.

For this year’s ball, the firefighters have, ironically—or perhaps appropriately, depending on one’s viewpoint—booked the local favorite band Lounge on Fire.

The Boise-based seven-piece band frequents the Wood River Valley with music that blends all the best elements of indie rock, soul and funk. With a bombastic brass section among their ranks, Lounge on Fire always lights up the dancefloor and burns down the house. Fortunately for the Limelight Hotel, many highly trained firefighting professionals will be present for their next concert.

Roughly 40 lots will be up for grabs in this year’s silent auction. All items are donated by local businesses and well-wishers and range considerably in type and value.

Ski helmets, scenic prop-plane flights, art, meal packages and more round out the selection. The musically inclined can bid on a guitar lesson from Bellevue-based guitar expert Hart Gibson. For those with kids, the first item on the list is a firefighter birthday party, complete with classic red trucks, hoses and actual firefighters.

All those items were gratefully received by the volunteer association, but perhaps the most poignant is a hand-crafted trout sculpture. This item was recently valued at $8,625. It was donated to the volunteers by the Casser family in the wake of the September Croy Canyon wildfire as a gesture of thanks to those who protected the family’s home from the blaze.

This is the only auction item for which the volunteers will be accepting pre-auction bids. Those interested in the sculpture should email firefightersballauction@gmail.com.

Otherwise, the party kicks off Saturday night. Tickets are just $20 and are now available online at ksvva.org or in person at Atkinsons’ Market in Ketchum. Space is limited and the ball does typically sell out, but there’s a chance some tickets will be available at the door night-of.

Learn more about the ball, the firefighters and all they do in the valley at ksvva.org. Those who wish to show their support can also donate at any time at ksvva.org/donate or by emailing donations@ksvva.org.

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