By ANGIE CARNATHAN
The Oktibbeha/Starkville Emergency Response Volunteer Services will hold its 2nd Annual Bully Gras Ball on Friday, Jan. 27 at the Starkville Country Club. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. and is the group’s largest fundraiser for the year. Musical entertainment will be provided by the Flames, a popular rhythm and blues tribute band. The ball also features dancing, food, a special appearance by MSU mascot Bully and the presentation of the Bully Gras Royal Court.
According to a release, the theme of the ball is meant to bring together and celebrate New Orleans flair with Mississippi State University Athletics. A Bully Gras king and queen will be chosen through a unique system of voting, said Amanda Edwards, OSERVS board vice chair, who is spearheading organization of the event.
“People vote for their favorite team by making a donation to OSERVS in the name the couple of they’d like to become king and queen,” Edwards said. “The donation can be any dollar amount to cast a vote. For example, $1 equals one vote, and $1,000 equals one vote. However, when it comes to selecting a king and queen, the couple who raises the most money from ball-goers will be crowned Bully Gras King and Queen for 2012.”
Last year’s queen, Director of Marketing for the Eat With Us Group Arma de la Cruz, said it has been an honor to serve as Bully Gras Queen for 2011.
“I have had fun using the title socially,” de la Cruz said, “but more importantly, I am happy to help and represent OSERVS because they are such an important resource for the community. I encourage the Starkville citizens to support the current court financially because their contributions come directly back into our great community.”
North Mississippi Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert was selected as Bully Gras King last year. Tagert said he was grateful for the opportunity to participate last year and hopes everyone will come out for this year’s event.
“Starkville and the region are very fortunate to have OSERVS and the good folks who lead this organization,” Tagert said. “The Bully Gras Ball is the perfect time for the community to show our appreciation for all that they do. Great food, great people and a great cause are hard to beat.” Edwards said this year’s ball promises to be one of the best yet.
“Those attending not only enjoy good food and fellowship and great entertainment, but also help to raise money to support the work OSERVS does year-round in helping those affected by disasters and in educating the community about emergency and disaster preparedness,” Edwards said.
In 2011, the Bully Gras Ball raised nearly $20,000 for OSERVS. The funds helped provide assistance to local victims of house fires, the December 2010 tornado that struck Starkville and the April 2011 tornado that scarred much of neighboring Webster County.
“Last year, I was fortunate enough to be a in a position to work with OSERVS in providing relief to those in the tornado-damaged areas in Webster County and in Smithville,” OSERVS Communication Chair Brian Hawkins said.
Hawkins said money raised through events like the Bully Gras Ball provide OSERVS with the resources to provide supplies to those in need.
“So many people have reached out to support OSERVS, and we ask the community to join us for the Bully Gras Ball again this year,” OSERVS Board Chair Carol Moss Read said. “The money raised from this event stays in our community and helps people right here at home.”
Leaders of OSERVS said they hope the 2012 Bully Gras Ball will help in continuing to build the agency’s funding base. The goal of the group’s volunteers is to expand emergency and disaster training programs within the community and to keep on providing support to the Oktibbeha County Emergency Management Agency.
“Just as important as helping those in our neighboring communities has been our ability to help those here in Starkville and Oktibbeha County,” Hawkins said.
“When we’ve had storm damage here or seen families who have lost homes due to residential fires, we’ve been able to provide multiple nights in local motels for those put out of their homes and apartments, as well as provide toiletries and gift cards for clothing and other necessities. The money we raise makes a difference.”
Tickets for the 2012 Bully Gras Ball are $50 per person and may be purchased from any OSERVS board member or at the OSERVS office at 100 Highway 12 East at South Jackson Street. For more information, contact OSERVS at 662-384-2200 during the agency’s regular operating hours, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday - Thursday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday.