The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Heritage Ball to be held at the Eastern Flank Battlefield Park on Saturday, October 7. There are incredible stories to tell and no one better than Danny Anderson who attended 49 of the 50 balls, along with the “Next Gen” Mary Michel Cross who is co-chairing the Next Gen Late Party with her husband, Will, for the younger generation. This year, Danny and his wife Teresa are honorary co-chairs of the ball along with Mary Ligon.
Heritage Foundation long-time supporter Danny Anderson and his wife Teresa have collectively chaired the Heritage Ball five times individually or as a couple and they have some stories to tell! Danny recalls in the early years, they could call it “ball month” (now called “ball week”) when supporters would come out to an open field now called the Eastern Flank and get the grounds ready for several hundred guests. Today, the Eastern Flank plays host to around 800 guests under the same stars from 50 years ago.
Danny says, “We didn’t have a budget and ticket sales were our only income. We had a group of ladies that would put together floral arrangements and we would beg, borrow and steal to secure beautiful flowers and decorations. We did whatever it took. The guys would build the stage that consisted of 57 4 X 8 wooden panels bolted down on concrete. Elephants could have danced on that stage!”
Danny adds, “Each ball has been nostalgic in its own way. One year, I co-chaired the “Chinese Ball” with Cecil Ewin which was a buffet of all things. That was the last buffet in the history of the ball. Someone came up to me that night and said, ‘Danny, we have a problem. We are out of food and a lot of guests haven’t eaten.’ I went to each table and apologized. That didn’t go over well. The next day, I had Chinese food delivered to the guests who complained the most. That didn’t go over well either. Not all years were easy,” he says with a laugh.
Danny reminisced that one year at the Flamingo Ball there was so much rain prior to the event that the tent roof filled up with water and almost sank to the dance floor. “We had committee members and neighbors coming to help mop, put down hay and help make it presentable. That’s what’s so special about the ball. It’s not just for those who attend the event, but for the whole community. Back in the day, putting up a large tent in the city was a big deal and neighbors came from all around to see what was going on. They offered to help. We got to share with them what the Heritage Foundation is all about and they got it.”
He adds, “To this day, while we have a lot of helpers, we still invite the community to come to the site the week the tent is being erected and decorated to share the experience with our neighbors. The Heritage Foundation is for all of us as we work to protect our own heritage, preserve places and keep the charm that we know as Williamson County.”
Mary Michael and Will Cross are serving as the Next Gen Late Party Co-Chairs for the Heritage Ball. The “next generation” of supporters will enjoy cocktails and desserts before joining in on dancing until midnight.
Mary Michael says, “Will and I are so honored to be able to introduce the next generation to the true “heritage” of the Heritage Ball. Will’s grandmother, Caroline Cross chaired the third ball, which was the first time it was in the field."
Will adds, “My grandmother Caroline, my father (Jim Cross) and my Aunt Amy cleaned up the field for two weeks to get ready for the ball. We’re excited to carry on the legacy my grandmother helped start to support this community and organization. We want to keep it as amazing now as it was then.”
Will, a lifelong Williamson County native, always wanted to return after college because it was and is important to him that Franklin hold onto all the things that make it special, unique, inviting and positive. They believe in the importance of the younger generation to appreciate and protect the mission and efforts of preserving and restoring historic structures in Williamson County.
Mary Michael adds, “The Late Party is a much more attainable price for our age group and provides an opportunity to involve the next generation, bring excitement around the mission and values of the Heritage Foundation, as well as educate and involve young leaders. It’s also just a fun night to network and surround yourself with movers and shakers in Williamson County.”
The Late Party begins at 8:00 p.m. and features an open bar, desserts by Cater615 and entertainment with dancing until midnight and is hosted by the Next Gen Advisory Board, the future faces of preservation.
Will graduated from Battle Ground Academy before attending Samford University where he graduated with a B.S. degree in Finance. He works for Oversite, a family-owned owner’s representative and development consulting company in Franklin.
Mary Michael is originally from Fairhope, Alabama and moved to Franklin when she and Will married in June of 2019. Mary Michael taught Kindergarten at Battle Ground Academy before transitioning to her current role as Director of Marketing and Business Development for Oversite.
From the past, to the present and looking toward the future, the Heritage Ball continues to be relevant in Williamson County preserving not only our places, but our stories and our heritage. WilliamsonHeritage.org