Presley Lochmueller picked out the dress she planned on wearing to the Pattie A. Clay Auxiliary Charity Ball (PACA) long before the COVID-19 epidemic swept into Kentucky.
“All of the dresses were stunning. I looked around and one caught my eye and that’s the one I ended up going with,” Lochmueller said.
When the pandemic struck, she was worried she might never get the chance to wear that dress, though.
The PACA Committee announced in April the event — which has been held on the third weekend of June for the past 48 years — would be pushed back.
As COVID-19 infections continued to grow in recent weeks, that left organization with the task of trying to put a new twist on one of Madison County’s biggest and grandest traditions.
“The committee has had numerous calls and brainstorming sessions trying to find the safest, best solution for everyone who is invested in PACA,” a press release from the PACA Committee stated. “Unfortunately, we feel the best solution is to not host a large-scale event that encourages social gatherings of more than 10 people for the safety of our community.”
They were able to come up with a safe, but unconventional compromise.
There will be no dance floor, no toasts, no lavish food and drink. But in order to still honor the lovely young ladies who would normally serve as junior hostesses and be presented by a male figure in their life, it will take place via a computer screen.
The 2020 PACA Ball will be held virtually next month, the organization announced last week.
“I think it’s the next best thing that they could have done without having the actual ball,” junior hostess Emma Kate Brumley said.
The junior hostesses will be filmed and photographed in their dresses on Aug. 22 at Lynwood Estate in Richmond.
On Aug. 29 at 6 p.m., the committee invites supporters to join the Facebook watch party for the presentation of the ladies streaming on the Pattie A. Clay Auxiliary page.
“I’m kind of disappointed we put in all this work and we didn’t get the whole PACA experience. But, as long as safety is the first priority, then that’s fine with me,” Lochmueller said.
The PACA experience isn’t just about attending the ball, though.
Those who are interested in being junior hostesses apply during their freshman and spend more than a year getting ready. They attend etiquette dinners and help with a variety of community service projects.
The young ladies helped with local food drives and also assisted the Salvation Army around Christmas.
“All of us had shifts where we would go and ring the bell,” Lochmueller said. “I enjoyed the community service, but we didn’t get to it all.”
The community service projects were put on hold when COVID-19 appeared in Kentucky in March.
The pandemic also forced the cancelation of one of the other favorite parts of the entire process for the junior hostesses — the fashion show.
That event was usually held on the first Sunday in June each year.
“I think a lot of girls were looking forward to that,” said Mary Margaret Brumley, mother of Emma Kate Brumley. “They were still hoping that maybe they could have a chance to do the fashion show.”
That won’t happen.
The young ladies will get a chance to wear their dresses, though — and their friends and family will be able to watch.
“This is an opportunity for our community at-large to get to meet our junior hostesses and see them in their beautiful, white ball gowns,” the release from the PACA Committee stated. “We encourage you to participate and help us spread the word throughout our community, inviting others to tune in to see the presentation.”
For the past 48 PACA Charity Balls, more than $1.3 million dollars has been donated to Baptist Health Richmond to purchase medical equipment and complete renovations for the community. Supporting partners can still support the mission of PACA by making a donation. Donations will enable the PACA committee the opportunity to continue the tradition.
To donate to PACA, visit bidpal.net/PACA20 or call 859-625-3675.