Revamped Red Light Ball, Feb. 27 |

Revamped Red Light Ball, Feb. 27


17th Annual Red Light Ball

Alta Sierra Country Club

6-11:30 p.m. Feb. 27

Tickets: $75 per person

Contact Susan Drown 274-2568

Since it was founded in 1998, the Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Council has donated more than $800,000 to local public safety departments. The Red Light Ball is one of its biggest fund-raisers, netting about $25,000 each year. When organizers decided last year to change the venue for the ball from the Nevada County Fairgrounds to Alta Sierra Country Club, they knew they’d save money and be able to donate more to local public safety agencies.

As hoped, last year’s 16th annual ball brought in an additional $10,000 in net profits. But that extra money came at a steep price.

“People left the ball early, saying they’d never attend another one,” recalled Susan Drown, this year’s Red Light Ball co-chair.

According to Drown, guests’ complaints ranged from the long line at the one bar serving drinks to the tiny, crowded dance floor.

“Space was so cramped we had to pick up a table and move it against a wall, unseating those guests so the honor guard could get by. Another table of guests was never served dinner because apparently servers forgot them,” added Bill Drown, council president and founder.

Even the table centerpieces became targets.

“Some people said they couldn’t see across their table because of the lights flashing before their eyes,” laughed Bill.

How tall were the lighted centerpieces?

“About 20 inches,” reported Susan.

“But some people complained they seemed 32 stories tall!” Bill said.

This year’s organizing committee listened to the myriad complaints and took action. The committee sent a “Save the Date” postcard to previous and potential guests proclaiming the 2016 ball would be “new, improved” and assuring, “We have made a few changes.”

According to the Drowns, those changes include: a grand buffet ensuring dinner will be served more efficiently, tables configured to provide more space for the dance floor, a second bar devoted to serving beer and wine, and a volunteer-staffed table selling drink tickets to eliminate time-consuming cash and credit card transactions at the bars.

It was a learning experience for last year’s organizers, admitted Susan.

“The country club is a beautiful, intimate setting. When we looked across the room, the centerpieces looked lovely,” she explained. “We just didn’t ‘test’ them, so to speak.”

Those growing pains aside, the Drowns say the venue change was worth it. The facility rental was less expensive, and there was no need to rent tents, tables and silverware or hire a caterer. The new location also made way for a new local, live band, Sols, which pro-rated its fee to support the charity. Even decorating the smaller venue was easier and less costly. “Every dollar we saved on expenses and earned in net profit goes back into our community to support projects and equipment that are needed but not included a department’s budget,” said Susan.

With a capacity of 250 guests, this year’s ball is expected to sell out.

And what about those centerpieces?

“They will be lower,” promised Bill, “with no flashing lights.”

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who resides in Nevada County. She can be reached at

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