In 1995, board member DeVette Ashley heard from, then Artistic Director for Kansas City Ballet, Todd Bolender, that he wanted an event for children that could happen around the annual production of The Nutcracker. DeVette had several ideas, but her suggestion of a luncheon followed by attending Kansas City Ballet’s performance won out.
“That first year we had lunch at The Marriott before the show,” DeVette said. “But each year after we tried something new like giving the children a favor to take home. One year we had a special dessert that was a yellow cake in the shape of cheese with a tiny chocolate mouse on the plate. Before long we had lunch and entertainment provided by students from Kansas City Ballet School.”
It’s now been 25 years of tradition for the Sugar Plum Fairy Luncheon, which later was renamed the Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball. Each year the goal remains the same… to create a magical experience for children while raising money for Kansas City Ballet School.
The chairs of the children’s ball change, though many have been known to organize the event more than once, like DeVette. That is true of this year’s chairs as well: Lisa Sirridge and her daughter-in-law Regina (Gina) Klepikow. Lisa worked as a parent volunteer in 2007 and 2008 before co-chairing the event in 2009 and then chairing on her own in 2010. Gina, also a ballet school parent, served on committees for years and often designed and painted festive backdrops.
A Family of Ballet Lovers
“Originally, I was supposed to co-chair this event with my daughter Grace Lewis,” Lisa says. “After we made the decision, she was hired as the manager of events and development by KCB and was not able to remain in the volunteer position as co-chair.” That’s when Gina stepped up and offered to co-chair.
Lisa’s relationship to Kansas City Ballet is multifaceted.
“My first connection to Kansas City Ballet was through its founder, Tatiana Dokoudovska,” Lisa said. “I studied under her direction at UMKC Conservatory of Dance and was a member of the Kansas City Civic Ballet which later was called Kansas City Ballet.”
Her daughter, Grace Lewis, studied at Kansas City Ballet School and performed in Bolender’s version of The Nutcracker for years. “As her commitment grew, so did mine as a parent volunteer,” Lisa admitted.
When Grace went off to college, Lisa’s granddaughter, Natalya Klepikow, was studying at Kansas City Ballet School as well. Natalya performed both in Bolender’s version and also Artistic Director Devon Carney’s version which was created in 2015. Meanwhile, Lisa and Grace, who had since graduated from college, became part-time teachers of ballet and Pilates classes for the school. Grace helped to build the Adaptive Dance Program and spearheaded the highly successful Sensory-Friendly Nutcracker performance for Kansas City Ballet in 2018.
“As with any event going on in our lives,” Gina says, “we always help each other out and back each other up when needed.”
A New Addition
New this year is an online bidding platform for the annual silent auction.
“My biggest goal was to introduce technology into the silent auction,” Regina admits. “We will have all our auction items online and open for online bidding a few days prior to the event. This idea has been challenging at times but we have an excellent committee member, Allison Jaksa, who has had previous experiences with online bidding platforms. Allison has helped Grace input all the unique items for this event into the website. Grace has worked endlessly to make this technology a reality for this year’s event. I hope the attendees are receptive to this new technology.”
The Goal for the Children’s Ball
The women have been working on their concept and planning for a 25th Anniversary party since early spring. They are proud of the designs and concepts and all of the hard work they and their committee members have accomplished.
The entire committee is excited to see the faces of the attendees when they finally see the ballroom. This big reveal is why they work so hard on different themes each year.
Gina hopes each attendee knows they have helped a student dancer achieve their dreams and goals. “I want the younger attendees to be entertained in a magical way so that they can carry on their enchanting experience at the Kauffman Center to see The Nutcracker,” she says.
Keeping her eye on the prize, Lisa definitely gives a nod to the event’s history as well as its founder. “Twenty-five years ago DeVette took an idea and dream for much needed support for the Kansas City Ballet School and turned it into a Kansas City holiday tradition. I feel it is very important to maintain this ideal,” Lisa says. “My goal is to keep the magical flavor of the luncheon as DeVette intended.”
The co-chairs agree they have a good team and are so excited for the event this Saturday, Dec. 7.