State Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny,
has declared the ninth annual Preservation Ball held Saturday, March 24 in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg "a complete and unconditional success."
Sponsored by the Victorian Dance Ensemble of the Civil War Dance Foundation, the ball benefits the Pennsylvania Gettysburg Monuments Project, which Mr. Readshaw founded in 1997 after reading about the deterioration of the more than 1,000 monuments in the Gettysburg National Military Park.
Budget constraints had prevented the National Park Service from being able to adequately address the impact of time, weather and human contact on the monuments.
Pennsylvania has 146 monuments and markers on the battlefield in addition to the huge Pennsylvania Memorial. They mark the locations of the Pennsylvania regiments during the three-day battle of July 1863, pay tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the units, and recognize the special actions of individual soldiers and officers, many of whom lost their lives. Most were erected by the veteran survivors of the battle, assisted by allocations from the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
Mr. Readshaw said the Victorian Dance Ensemble reports this year's ball, a sellout, set a record, raising more than $8,000 for the monuments project, well exceeding last year's old record of $7,400.
It its early years, the Gettysburg Monuments Project raised the funds needed to ensure the repair and cleaning of the Pennsylvania monuments. The focus now is to provide each with a perpetual trust to fund the periodic cleaning and minor maintenance to keep the monuments looking their best and provide optimal care to minimize further deterioration.
As they entered the majestic Capitol Rotunda, ball attendees were serenaded by the Venture Crew 53 Fife & Drum Corps of the Boy Scouts of America, portraying the First Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps.
The Civil War-era music for the dance was supplied by the Philadelphia Brigade Band.
Participants leading the Grand March to begin the ball included Readshaw; James Getty, portraying President Abraham Lincoln; and Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Bob Kirby, making his second preservation ball appearance.
Altogether, more than 220 people took part in the festivities.
"It could not have gone better," Mr. Readshaw said. "The music of the scouts and the Brigade Band was superb in echoing through the Rotunda; the dances could not have gone smoother. Everyone was having a great time.
"I got more compliments after this ball than at any other."
Mr. Readshaw said he was especially pleased to see that this year's ball had a larger number of teenage and younger dancers than previous ones.
"They are what this is all about – why the Gettysburg Monuments Project exists: to preserve the ‘icons of freedom' of the Gettysburg National Military Park for their generation and many more to come," Mr. Readshaw said. "The legacy of the Battle of Gettysburg and what brought our nation to those awful three days must always be remembered and respected."
Mr. Readshaw added he expects the Victorian Dance Ensemble will pull out all the stops for the next ball in March of 2013.
"It will be the 10th anniversary of the ball and, of course, the year of the 150th anniversary of the battle," Mr. Readshaw said. "I'm sure it will be an evening to remember."
The Victorian Dance Ensemble has a website at www.civilwardance.org.
Mr. Readshaw can be contacted about the Pennsylvania Gettysburg Monuments Project by calling his Harrisburg office at 717-783-0411, or by email at Gettysburg@pahouse.net.