Oldham County Historical Society

Oldham County Historical Society
reaps big reward at this year’s Gala

Fundraising proceeds will help
pay for its programs and more

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (November 2012) – The 2012 Oldham County Historical Society’s annual fundraising Gala far exceeded organizers expectations. It is an event many in the community eagerly anticipate, and it benefits a non-profit group that provides a much needed cultural element to maintaining the county’s past, local supporters say.
“This was our second most successful Gala. We raised $39,000,” said Nancy Stearns Theiss, the society’s executive director. This amount was only surpassed in 2007 when the organization raised $40,000.
The Gala was held Sept. 28 on the grounds of the History Center in downtown La Grange and attracted 245 people, Theiss said. The event always carries a theme, usually one where attendees can dress the part as they enjoy supporting a local entity.

Bob Martin and Bill Samuels Jr.

Photo by Don Ward

Oldham County Historical Society
Board President Bob Martin (left)
presents the J. Chilton Barnett
Champion of History Award to Bill
Samuels Jr. of Makers Mark during
the society’s Gala fundraiser, held
Sept. 28 in La Grange, Ky.

“I think the theme of the Bootlegger’s Ball and lots of publicity helped,” said Theiss. In addition, Bill Samuels Jr. of Maker’s Mark received the J. Chilton Barnett Champion of History award the same evening. He is “a well recognized advocate of Kentucky history,” she added.
Theiss said Samuels’ participation in a Champion of History role “increased people’s awareness of historic preservation.” The Oldham County Historical Society was established in 1959 with the goal of preserving, collecting and conveying the history of the county through telling the story of its people and events that shaped its development.
The money raised from the Gala goes toward the annual operating costs of the three buildings on the property – the J.C. Barnett Library and Archives Building, the Peyton Samuel Head Family Museum and the Rob Morris Educational Building. As for future goals, Theiss said, “We are exploring the possibility of remodeling our museum, but we do not have any particular projects as of yet.”
Funding also benefits educational programs that are provided throughout the year. Program offerings this year have included: “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music,” a Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit sponsored by The Smithsonian Institute and the Kentucky Humanities Council; “Bottoms Up: J.C. Barnett Whiskey Jug Exhibit” (ongoing for the year); The Lunch Bunch series (programs that featured a variety of speakers, such as author Albert Schmid); The Art of Richard Luce exhibit; and the American Girls’ Book Club Series, a children’s program.
The Gala is an open event and anyone can attend for the price of a ticket. Many items were donated for the live and silent auctions. Some big ticket items were donated this year, which no doubt increased the amount of money raised, Theiss said. The auctioned items included a Lynn’s Paradise Café Buddy Pepper Party for 20, a week’s stay at the Maison Rose in France, catered Ohio River cruise, and catered lunch at Maker’s Mark with a tour provided by Samuels.
“Many people donate items even without being asked because they support our mission,” said Theiss. The Gala committee and the Oldham County Historical Society Board of Directors also work at collecting items for the auctions.
“We go out and ask people to donate items from businesses we support,” said Gala committee chairperson Karen Eldridge. A big boost this year was from “four artists who designed pieces specifically for the gala.”
“Everybody was so generous this year. This is THE biggest fundraiser the Historical Society has,” Eldridge said. She said the committee changed the way the auction was conducted, making it more productive. Wardlow Auctions Inc. helped with this part of the event.
“The committee has already started working on next year’s Gala,” said Eldridge. The committee of 15 members meets every month except for November and December. Planning the Gala “is a long process.”
Another key to the event’s success is that “people are starting to see how important the History Center is,” Eldridge said. “The whiskey jug exhibit drew in a lot of people. Nancy does a wonderful job of having programs that interest people differently.”
Just as the Gala committee starts planning for the next year’s event immediately after the Gala is over, Theiss begins well in advance to plan exhibits and programs. “Next year for our temporary exhibit we are looking at ‘Saving the Printed Word’ as an exhibit topic,” said Theiss. “What will the future be like if everything goes digital?”
Not wanting to rest too long on their laurels, committee members and members of the Historical Society and staff at the History Center are always looking for opportunities to draw in more people.
Eldridge said “there is a lot of room to improve in terms of people knowing and appreciating what we have here.”

• For more information on the Oldham County Historical Society or Oldham County History Center, call (502) 222-0826 or visit: www.OldhamCountyHistoricalSociety.org.

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