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CAB gala creates jumpin' jazz joint; don glad rags for WWII-era music, dance

Many guests of the Community Arts Base's Spring Arts Gala dress to match the evening's theme, as demonstrated by these members of the planning committee. Left to right: Sue Bushard, Jill Berke, Liz Wertz and Kay Fritz. <i>Photos courtesy of Jens Gunelson</i>

So where in River Falls can a person find unique artwork, WWII-era jazz music and dancing plus "elegant hors d' oeuvres" all in one place?

The nonprofit Community Arts Base answers that question with the 18th annual Spring Arts Gala -- Play it Again, CAB -- taking place 6-11 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the Riverview Hotel and Suites, 100 Spring St.

Tickets cost $25 in advance at several locations in River Falls:

  • First National Bank of River Falls, 104 E. Locust St.
  • Dish and the Spoon Café, 208 N. Main St.
  • Junior's Bar, 414 S. Main St.
  • Riverview Hotel and Suites
  • Whole Earth Grocery, 126 S. Main St.
  • Any CAB member
  • At the door that night for $30.

Everyone is welcome at the event. CAB members get a $5 discount. Ticketholders eat 6:30-8:30 p.m. items from the planned menu. This includes oysters Rockefeller, smoked salmon, a chocolate-cascading fountain with fruit and a cash bar.

Later, guests can order food from the adjacent Junior's Bar.

Decorations, music, mood and dress follow a WWII-era theme, says CAB member and gala-planning co-chair Sue Beckham. She said think of an overseas feel and a time flavored by the popular classic movie released in 1942, "Casablanca."

Beckham said about the music, "All three venues are new."

Playing on gala night are the River Falls High School Basie Jazz Ensemble; DIVA, a group of seven women who sing harmony with UW-River Falls music instructor and lecturer Camilla Horne; and the Route 55 Jazz Band.

Beckham said CAB member and local artist and musician David Markson arranged a "great lineup" through his local and regional contacts.

Emphasize the arts

CAB members come from all different backgrounds of artistic design, appreciation and support. Beckham said she is one of many planners and workers who contribute different skills to make it happen.

Art, of course, plays a big role in the gala.

A silent auction runs until 9 p.m. and includes a variety of locally created pieces. Beckham says they're all special and unique.

The evening also features three select pieces of art available by chance -- people buy raffle tickets for their chance to win the art in a drawing held at 9:15 p.m. Artists typically donate the raffle pieces in support of CAB.

Beckham said one of the artists, Dale Lewis, creates art pieces out of scrap metal and often incorporates used computer parts in his artwork. She said he sends friends and family around to scout sales for steel, aluminum and tin.

He often uses old spoons, forks and knives into his work and makes many creatures -- ants, a big catfish, a blue heron.

For the gala raffle, Lewis created a "true spoon-billed rooster," a picture to be displayed at the First National Bank April 17-26.

Local artist Bill Ammerman, well known for his watercolor paintings, provided a painting of yellow iris that Beckham said is amazing and measures about 24 inches by 30 inches.

Some may recognize the name Brian Lagesse, a glass blower who won the best-in-show award at a past-year's Art on the Kinni -- a long-running juried art fair CAB organizes.

She said Lagesse displays work in the region and sometimes works with Pauly Cudd at his River Falls studio. For the gala raffle, Lagesse created a lavender-colored glass platter that measures about 26 inches by 18 inches, which requires an extra-large kiln.

Beckham said last year's Spring Arts Gala drew 200-300 people. Many of them dressed in creative outfits.

She said it's fun to see people's creative costumes and jokes that for this event, ladies can even drag out the big Joan Crawford-like shoulder pads.